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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Scrapie Disease

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April 30  |  Editorial, Farm, food safety, Latest News, Livestock, Reports, Tests  |   Webmaster

It seems to be a week of news, on both sides of the border, for transmissable livestock diseases.

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of sheep and goats.  It is among a number of diseases classified as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) and very similar to BSE (mad  cow disease) found in cattle.

A fatal disease that affects sheep and goats has been confirmed at a quarantined sheep farm in eastern Ontario.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says scrapie (SKRAY’-pee) was confirmed in a sheep that recently died on the farm.

The agency says there is no human health risk associated with scrapie.

However, the CFIA aims to eradicate it from Canada as the disease has serious impacts on sheep.

It said in a weekend release that the farm was placed under quarantine because a sheep that originated from there had previously tested positive for scrapie.

Ontario Provincial Police are investigating the removal earlier this month of 31 sheep from the same farm in violation of the quarantine order.

See: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/

 

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Mad Cow (BSE)

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April 30  |  Beef, Editorial, Farm, food safety, Latest News, Livestock, Opinion  |   Webmaster

There has been a lot of media attention on the recent discovery in California of a case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is a progressive neurological  and eventually fatal disease of cattle; its symptoms are similar to a disease of sheep, called scrapie. BSE has been called “mad cow disease.”  Scientists say the disease is spread through feed that contains brain or spinal cord tissue from infected animals. People can get it from eating products containing such tissues, including head cheese. However, since 1997, feed made from mammals has been banned from cattle rations, and high-risk materials such as brains have been kept from the human food supply, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This recent case is not typical. It was found in an older animal and  it was never destined to be part of the human food chain. The California cow tested positive for so-called atypical BSE, which the Agriculture Department said isn’t generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed. Such cases can occur spontaneously in older animals, according to the department.  There have been many criticisms about how the FDA handled the communication of this particular discovery, but the main point here is that the system worked.

Once again, we remind our readers to do their own research and examine all sides of the issue before forming their own opinion, instead of accepting the media hype and adding to the rumor mill, which tends to blow everything out of proportion.  Let’s not propagate more uninformed doomsday panic like we had with LFTB (aka “pink slime”).

For those interested, following are links to news stories, editorials, and opinions from various sides of the issue, to help you develop an informed and intelligent perspective.       – ed.


http://usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-04-26

http://www.whsv.com/home/headlines

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/04/

http://www.cbsnews.com/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/24/

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Social Media Responsibility

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April 23  |  Editorial  |   Webmaster

The vast knowledge available on the internet, combined with  the ability to interact instantaneously with social media is an incredible, powerful technology.  But as with any advancement in science and technology, this comes with certain risks and responsibilities; it is definitely, the proverbial double-edged sword.  Nowadays, anyone with access to a computer can broadcast their opinions or agenda and find like-minded individuals to champion their cause or to jump on the bandwagon.  Unfortunately, since this is an open access technology, there is no way to validate or verify much of the information or misinformation posted, especially on personal blog sites.

Following is a well-balanced article, which sums up the pros and cons, of the technology that we all take for granted today.

Social media make rumor mill faster, not smarter

And it makes a difference in politics as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube open the door to disinformation.

By RICK MONTGOMERY  The Kansas City Star

Admit it. Sometimes you’re part of the social-media problem, spreading news and views you find online without knowing if the information is good.

Rumors and misinformation, granted, are ancient parts of discourse. But this is an election year, and social media platforms have turned the rumor mill into a supercharged rumor turbine, something that can be electronically manipulated and monitored. And that changes the political game.

Researchers will be closely watching how it plays out, especially through Twitter.

That’s because they can. The open platform is enabling scientists to build computer models that help them see how misinformation travels.

“What makes social media different is that we have much easier ways of tracking how rumors spread,” said Jonah Berger at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies “social epidemics.”

What worries many experts — even some ardent defenders of free speech — is that bad information that moves fast enough and far enough, through the power of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, has the potential of warping the democratic process.

A well-crafted lie that goes viral the week before an election could affect outcomes.

That’s the dark side of social media — “there’s more libel, more defamation, more urban myths and harmful information getting out,” said David L. Hudson Jr., of the First Amendment Center, a think tank that advocates the tenets of our first freedoms. “I don’t like to sound like a censor, I’m for free speech. But I am concerned about this open spreading of rumors … and the rushing to judgment.

“We’re approaching a sobering realization that this new, revolutionary media does come with some dangers.”

Political campaigns this year will pour record sums — perhaps 10 percent of their resources — into establishing a presence in social media, which strategists view as both an opportunity and a potential curse. Some experts envision races hinging on the campaign errors, misstatements and smear tactics that rivals engineer to go viral.

When Twitter or YouTube push the propaganda, “it all becomes public … which I think is a good thing,” said Jeff Roe of the political consulting group Axiom Strategies, headquartered in Kansas City.

Using social media is free, making it a no-brainer communication tool — not only for groups that seek to propagate their version of a story, but to the tens of millions of Americans on the receiving end. But Roe doesn’t see it as a great bargain:

“Statements made in error that go viral can be very expensive to a campaign” when it needs to fight back.

The technologies of new media turn everyone who uses them into news sources, blasting out information, with attached links, in one click.

“There’s a certain ego that goes with being the first to hear something and share it, whether it’s true or not,” said Eric Melin of Spiral16, an Overland Park consulting firm using 3-D imagery to chart the circuitous paths of attack tweets, damaging rumors and viral tales that spring from social media.

It may be a truth, a half-truth or the early stage of a hoax — the finger found in Wendy’s chili went viral in Facebook’s early days before police exposed it as a scam.

This urge, this snap reflex to share a rumor in an instant, has a name: FOMO — fear of missing out, or being the last in your network to know.

Berger of the Wharton School has found that news on the Internet is most apt to go viral when it touches extreme emotions — like laughter or anger. Both are kryptonite to businesses and organizations, including political campaigns, that are trying to project honest, everyday values.

In politics, “grass roots” is everything. But social media platforms have given rise to a new strategy to watch out for: the “Astroturf campaign.”

It’s designed to look like the online conversations of regular people when it’s really spawned by insiders shooting automated messages they hope will catch fire.

Among those watching for this will be Indiana University computer scientist Filippo Menczer, whose research team first tracked Astroturf campaigns in the 2010 elections.

“Everyone’s doing it — fake tweets and fake accounts” in an effort to attract real-life Twitter followers into the discussion, he said.

And the wide-open nature of social media makes manipulation all the more tempting. Interactive service providers such as YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are effectively immune from lawsuits, thanks to a 1996 federal law.

“This is the wild west,” Menczer said, “where there’s no control whatsoever of social-media content.”

Friend to friend

It’s hard to knock what social media have achieved so far.

They’ve been credited with empowering the previously powerless, liberating peoples from oppressive regimes, exposing bad behavior among public officials.

(Some of that behavior was related to social media, such as the sharing of sexually explicit photos that drove U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, out of office.)

The instantaneous, friend-to-friend-to-friend magic of the platforms, however, also fueled swine-flu scares in 2009, when Kansas City-area schools had to respond to false rumors of outbreaks.

Even if the technology allows information — and misinformation — to spread in a flash, it allows countless users to fact-check and verify just as quickly, said Kevin Bankston of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit that promotes free, unfettered expression on the Web.

“It’s always been that a lie will make itself halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on,” Bankston said. “Today, the social media turbocharges that process…

“Still, this access we all have to knowledge and instantaneous sources of information is a good thing for humanity.”

The old-fashioned forms of media put out bad information, too. It was The New York Times, after all, that erroneously declared U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords dead from a shooting in Arizona — an embarrassment the newspaper attributed to a reporter bypassing editorial checkpoints to rush copy to the Web.

But only the Wild West of social media could deliver the following fake report on the @foxnewspolitics Twitter page.

@BarackObama has just passed. The President is dead. A sad 4th of July, indeed.

A hacker had infiltrated the Fox News account, which had 36,000 followers, and began posting several reports of Obama having been assassinated in Iowa.

The fraudulent posts first appeared in the hours after midnight last Independence Day, and though FoxNews.com quickly spotted the hoax, the news network had to wait hours for Twitter to respond to Fox’s request to reclaim the account.

Delays at Twitter kept the bogus news displayed past dawn.

Earlier this month, the FBI and New York Police Department opened an investigation into a potential terror threat after several digitally enhanced images of the New York skyline appeared on an Islamic terrorist group’s online forum. The graphic carried a caption, “Al Qaeda coming soon again in New York.”

Terrorist organizations commonly weave empty threats into social media. The “coming soon” graphic is likely another one, said Steve Stalinsky of the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors the Web activity of terrorist groups. But could a flurry of idle threats lead to a “cry wolf” complacency that puts America at greater risk of a real attack?

“The Taliban has several Twitter accounts and they’re very social-media savvy,” Stalinsky said. “YouTube is totally infested with Jihadi propaganda … Why is this allowed to happen?”

Most social-media platforms will flag or remove hate speech and deceptive spam when such material is brought to the service provider’s attention. Twitter early his year announced it will restrict offensive content “in countries that have different ideas about the contours of economic freedom.”

The company cited the examples of France and Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.

Gone viral

Recent cases of social-media causes gone viral underscore the benefits of the public platforms as well as the drawbacks.

Last month, the hottest video in the history of YouTube turned out to be artful spin, the story of an east African conflict almost two decades older than YouTube itself.

The “Kony 2012” mini-documentary nonetheless seemed fresh, credible and urgent to Twitter and Facebook users, who shot out links to the half-hour video, from friend to friend, until it drew more than 25 million views.

The clip elicited public horror and a supportive U.S. Senate resolution for the “invisible children” of Uganda, youngsters abducted and enslaved as soldiers by rebel leader Joseph Kony.

Foreign-policy experts eventually pointed out that Kony hadn’t been stirring much trouble and hadn’t even been seen in Uganda for several years. Donating money to help the country capture him, as the viral video implored, might not be such a wise thing, traditional news sources reported.

An online petition campaign launched by a Texas mother set off alarms over a ground-beef additive dubbed “pink slime.” The cheap, finely textured filler has been served up on school lunch trays, diner counters and kitchen tables for decades, and it’s treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria.

The federal government and some food-safety groups say pink slime is safe. But the public outcry was virulent enough to shut down some meat factories and drive grocers to clear their shelves of ammonia-treated beef.

Many school districts, bowing to online petitions, pledged from here on to serve only the more expensive, slime-less beef.

As with “Kony 2012,” the pink slime controversy raised awareness and triggered citizen action in ways once unimaginable. But food without the additive will require more cattle, and industry groups say the public will pay more to stock school cafeterias.

David B. Schmidt, president of the International Food Information Council, issued an online statement:

“Something is seriously out of kilter in our communications environment when safe food products and proven technologies can be torpedoed by sensationalist, misleading, yet entertaining social media campaigns. We should all take several steps back and remember the critical thinking skills we were taught in school.”  (We totally agree!  -ed.)

Defenders of unregulated social media, and there are plenty, counter: We were also taught democracy in schools. If not for throngs of Facebook friends and everyday tweeters, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat, may never have introduced a labeling bill to at least let consumers know when they’re buying pink slime.

Choice.org — the petition site that gave rise to the pink-slime crusade (and also sharpened national attention on the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin) — removes discriminatory causes and postings that call for violence. Website spokeswoman Megan Lubin said those cases were rare: “Most everyone is responsible when using” the open platform.

“It was the first time in history that more than 1 million comments were generated on a food petition at the FDA,” said Sue McGovern, spokeswoman for the Just Label It Campaign. “The exact number was 1,149,967 … It’s those mammoth, historical numbers that Washington, D.C., is taking a look at” in the viral age.

Tracking tweets

Some contend the best way to thwart the dangers of social media is to fight fire with fire — better technology.

The U.S. government is pushing to detect online persuasion campaigns and to develop “counter-messaging” software against “adversaries (who) may exploit social media and related technologies for disinformation,” according to a Pentagon statement to The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s an arms race,” said disinformation sleuth Menczer of Indiana’s Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research, recipient of a $2 million Defense Department grant. “We may develop better detection tools only to see political and commercial interests invest in beating these tools.”

The center he directs has a website, Truthy.indiana.edu, that monitors the Twittersphere to detect how political groups take advantage of it.

The Truthy project spotted suspicious patterns in the 2010 elections. Several Twitter accounts created simultaneously — along with Web links launched the same day — gave the illusion of real people having conversations. In fact, they were dummy accounts automatically tweeting and re-tweeting each other.

Followers of those accounts would get the sham tweets and be directed to Web sites resembling news organizations, Menczer said. Some of the reports would accuse a campaign’s opponent of backing legislation such as health reform and cap-and-trade proposals for personal gain.

Once the strategy goes viral and a topic, or “meme,” is followed — with Menczer’s computers tracing common hash tags, URLs and repeated phrases — digital images of the activity do resemble a biological virus.

But tracking this tangle of tweets, links and retweets back to the original source can be difficult, giving political campaigns deniability if confronted about the schemes.

In the 2008 Massachusetts race for U.S. Senate, Wellesley College scientists P. Takis Metaxas and Eni Mustafaraj detected a pattern of “Twitter-bombs” against Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate.

During the week leading up to the vote, the researchers noted a spike in Web searches that directed users to a disproportionate flurry of tweets smearing Coakley. The social-media traffic built enough for Google to tag the race a “trending topic,” and Republican Scott Brown scored a surprise victory.

The race in Massachusetts “was the first election in which social media absolutely changed the conversation,” said Mustafaraj, who noted the anti-Coakley tweets carried morsels of truth.

“In order for these things to spread, it can’t be a complete falsehood,” Mustafaraj said. “You hope that other media will pick up on the story.”

In time, other research shows, a social-media falsehood finds ways to die. Tracking the tweets from the zone of an earthquake that devastated Chile in 2010, computer analyst Barbara Poblete discovered that accurate reports from victims traveled faster and farther than did the false rumors.

Melin, of Overland Park’s Spiral16, notices the same: Bad information has ways of correcting itself, a phenomenon that social media defenders attribute to the collective wisdom of crowds.

“It does seem to actually work in the end,” he said. “Believe it or not.”

To reach Rick Montgomery, call 816-234-4410 or send email to rmontgomery@kcstar.com.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/04/21/3569194/social-media-make-rumor-mill-faster.html#storylink=cpy

 

 

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Veterinary Group Reaffirms Support for Antibiotics Use

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April 23  |  antibiotics, Beef, Dairy, Editorial, Farm, food safety, Immune System, Latest News, Livestock, Nutrition, Pork, Poultry, Research  |   Webmaster

While there are many sides and opinions to this ongoing debate, we are in full agreement with the following article. As stated in the AVMA statement, it  supports the prudent use of antibiotics: “The judicious use of antimicrobials plays a key role in preserving the health of our nation’s food animals and the safety of our nation’s food supply. Many agree that there is a need for greater veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in food-producing animals, and the AVMA is currently working with the FDA to develop practical means to increase this veterinary oversight.” 

In other words, prudent use of antibiotics and other microbial products, should be made only when necessary, and not indiscriminately in feeds or in any other attempt to prevent illness and disease.  As medically and scientifically proven, the over-exposure to antibiotics eventually increases our resistance to them, thus diminishing their effectiveness and leaving us even more susceptible to infection and disease.  The key here is the definition of “productive uses” and the need for more direct involvement of the AVMA in advising and regulating the use of antibiotics and antimicrobials.

As mentioned in previous posts, any wide-encompassing and long-term policies should be “based on solid science and risk-based assessment, and not on anecdotal reports and speculation.” (sic)  (as evidenced by the recent uproar of LFTB).

Following is the full text of the statement by the American Veterinary Medical Association …

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reaffirmed its support of the responsible use of antibiotics in food animals after a federal court ruling demanded that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) start proceedings to withdraw approval of certain uses of antibiotics used in food production.

United States Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz ruled March 22 that the FDA must start proceedings to withdraw approval of what the FDA currently refers to as “production uses” of penicillins and tetracyclines in food-producing animals. As part of the withdrawal process, manufacturers of the products can request hearings to allow them to provide scientific evidence that the production use of antimicrobial products does not pose a threat to public health.

“The AVMA acknowledges the growing concern regarding antimicrobial use and resistance in animals and people, and supports the judicious use of antimicrobials to maximize public and animal health benefits while minimizing risks,” says AVMA Chief Executive Officer Ron DeHaven. “The judicious use of antimicrobials plays a key role in preserving the health of our nation’s food animals and the safety of our nation’s food supply. Many agree that there is a need for greater veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in food-producing animals, and the AVMA is currently working with the FDA to develop practical means to increase this veterinary oversight.”

DeHaven cautions, however, that any decision to withdraw approval or ban any antimicrobial uses should be based on solid science and risk-based assessment, and not on anecdotal reports and speculation.

“It is crucial that safe and effective antimicrobials remain available for use in veterinary medicine to ensure the health and welfare of animals and, consequently, the health of humans,” DeHaven says. “The AVMA will continue to work closely with the FDA to formulate a sound, science-based strategy to deal with this complex issue.”

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 82,500 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. For more information about the AVMA, visit www.avma.org.


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Animal Antibiotics Over-use

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April 22  |  antibiotics, Beef, Farm, food safety, Immune System, Latest News, News, Pork, Poultry, Reports, Tests  |   Webmaster

Following is one of the first major media stories exposing the threat to human health of the over-use of antibiotics in livestock, presented by Katie Couric with CBS. It is still compelling, in light of the recently announced FDA guidelines.

“It’s scary, I mean, you just can’t describe it really,” said Bill Reeves.

Two years ago, 46-year-old Bill Reeves, who worked at a poultry processing plant in Batesville, Arkansas, developed a lump under his right eye.

“It went from about the size of a mosquito bite to about the size of a grapefruit,” he said.

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports doctors tried several drugs that usually work on this potentially deadly infection: methicillin resistant staph or MRSA – before one saved his life.

WebMD: MSRA

“You go from a just regular day to knowing you may die in a couple of hours,” Reeves said.

He wasn’t the only worker from this farming community to get sick. Joyce Long worked at the hatchery, handling eggs and chicks. She got MRSA at least a dozen times, and had to try several drugs as well.

“It was real painful. Shots don’t help, because it’s so infected, it don’t help much,” she said.

Within weeks, 37 people at the hatchery got sick. They’ve filed personal injury claims against the company, Pilgrims Pride, which has no comment.

This is not an isolated incident and chickens aren’t the only concern. A University of Iowa studylast year, found a new strain of MRSA — in nearly three-quarters of hogs (70 percent), and nearly two-thirds of the workers (64 percent) — on several farms in Iowa and Western Illinois. All of them use antibiotics, routinely. On antibiotic-free farms no MRSA was found.

To read the rest of the story and view the CBS video, follow this link:

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18563_162-6191530.html

 

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FDA guidelines for antimicrobial use

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April 21  |  antibiotics, Beef, Dairy, Farm, food safety, Immune System, Latest News, Nutrition  |   Webmaster

FDA Publishes Guidances to Limit Use of Antimicrobials (antibiotics) in Livestock Production

Apr. 13, 2012 12:48pm

    • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a series of three documents in the Federal Register today as part of an effort to alter the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals. 

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National Pork Board

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a series of three documents in the Federal Register today as part of an effort to alter the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals.

In a statement prior to today’s publication, FDA indicated that the issuance of three new documents will help veterinarians, farmers and animal producers use medically important antibiotics judiciously in food-producing animals by targeting their use to only address diseases and health problems. Under a new voluntary initiative, certain antibiotics would not be used for so-called “production” purposes, such as to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency in an animal. These antibiotics would still be available to prevent, control or treat illnesses in food-producing animals under the supervision of a veterinarian. There will be a three-year “phase in” period before these changes will become effective, but the exact dates of the phase-in period currently remain unspecified.

“It’s critical that we take action to protect public health,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective. We are also reaching out to animal producers who operate on a smaller scale or in remote locations to help ensure the drugs they need to protect the health of their animals are still available.”

The three documents published in today’s Federal Register include:

·         A final guidance for the industry, Guidance 209, “The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals,” that recommends phasing out the agricultural production use of medically important drugs and phasing in  veterinary oversight of therapeutic uses of these drugs.

·         A draft guidance, Draft Guidance 213, open for public comment, which will assist drug companies in voluntarily removing production uses of antibiotics from their FDA-approved product labels; adding, where appropriate, scientifically-supported disease prevention, control and treatment uses; and changing the marketing status to include veterinary oversight.

·         A draft proposed Veterinary Feed Directive regulation, open for public comment, that outlines ways that veterinarians can authorize the use of certain animal drugs in feed, which is important to make the needed veterinary oversight feasible and efficient.

FDA’s guidance documents do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities. Instead, guidance documents are meant to describe the FDA’s current thinking on a topic. As the American Association of Swine Veterinarians pointed out in a news release, it should be noted that FDA intends to work with drug manufacturers to remove label indications for growth promotion and feed efficiency from products considered important for human health. Once these products are no longer labeled for production uses, it will be illegal for veterinarians or producers to utilize medicated feeds for these purposes.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is concerned that lost and restricted access to antimicrobial products expected to result from these steps likely will disproportionately affect small producers, have a negative effect on animal health, and increase the cost of producing food while not improving public health.  NPPC makes the point that this action is a move to address an increase in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans, which opponents of modern animal agriculture blame on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production. 

However, numerous peer-reviewed risk assessments, including at least one by FDA, show a “negligible” risk to human health of antibiotics in food-animal production, according to NPPC.

Tom Talbot, a California beef producer, veterinarian and current chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Cattle Health and Well-Being Committee, issued a statement that raises key points on this issue. “Antimicrobial resistance is a multifaceted, extremely complex issue that cannot be adequately addressed solely by focusing on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Prudent and responsible evaluation of this issue must consider animal, human and industrial use of antibiotics. While we appreciate the agency working with industry on the implementation of Guidance 209, we remain committed that a strong science foundation is critical before moving forward with this guidance,” he states.

John Clifford, DVM, USDA Chief Veterinary Medical Officer, says, “USDA worked with FDA to ensure that the voices of livestock producers across the country were taken into account, and we will continue to collaborate with the FDA, the American Veterinary Medical Association and livestock groups to ensure that the appropriate services are available to help make this transition.”

FDA is currently accepting comments on Draft Guidance 213 and on the Veterinary Feed Directive document. Submit comments on these documents by the date provided in the Federal Register notice announcing the availability of the Draft Guidance (July 12, 2012). Submit written comments to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. Submit electronic comments on the draft guidance to http://www.regulations.gov. Identify all comments with the docket number listed in the notice of availability that publishes in the Federal Register.

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LFTB

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April 21  |  Beef, Editorial, food safety, Latest News, Nutrition, Opinion, Research  |   Webmaster

Lean Finely Textured Beef vs. Pink Slime

 

So, what’s all the fuss about “Pink Slime”?  Lean Finely Textured Beef has been used as an additive to ground beef for years, without so much as a whimper or whisper from the politicians, watchdogs, or general public.   Unfortunately, an opinionated poorly-researched blog went viral and the media got hold of it, combined with even more misinformation, escalated this non-story into a major headline that lasted for days.  In the old days, exaggerated, persistent gossip and innuendo (“nudge, nudge, wink, wink”) could eventually lead a person or company to ruin and disrepute.  Nowadays, we have the power of the internet and social media to spread gossip and opinionated misinformation as if they were on super steroids. 

Here is a well-balanced article from a beef industry advocate.  We hope that you enjoy this and the additional links at the bottom of the page.  Your comments are always welcome and we encourage all of you to do your own research and investigation before jumping on the “Doomsday Bandwagon”.   – ed.

 

Make Room For A Bigger, Badder Foe

by Troy Marshall in My View From The Country

Apr. 20, 2012 9:25am

Anti-modern, anti-capitalist, anti-technology groups are quickly becoming the largest threat to animal production.

Boxed-beef prices rallied substantially early this week, bringing some stability back to the beef markets as the peak grilling season gets underway. Analysts say the rally was confirmation that the media-fueled frenzy over lean finely textured beef (LFTB) is waning.  

I haven’t seen any official estimates of what this PR disaster cost the industry, but we do know that hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars were sucked out of the system in the last few weeks. This wasn’t an accident, either; it was a well conceived and orchestrated campaign that utilized an unwitting media to whip the firestorm.   In fact, the campaign’s success probably greatly exceeded the wildest expectations of a faction that’s quickly becoming one of the most threatening alliances against agriculture. This faction encompasses a passel of anti-modern, anti-capitalist, anti-technology groups masterful at creating buzzwords and narratives that obscure their true agenda while rallying well-intentioned consumers and voters to their side.  

The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) used to be the master of this strategy; that is, attracting hundreds of millions of dollars from people who actually believe their contributions support animal shelters and help abused animals. Instead, they fund a war chest to battle livestock production.   The animal welfare movement also is masterful at using groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to paint an extreme view. That way, a more mainstream group like HSUS can appear more center-based when it pushes for radical policy.  

The anti-market, anti-modern folks do it a little differently, however. They believe in government control of the marketplace, and replacing the market and industry institutions they view as supportive of the industry. To do this, they understand they must affect policy, which entails shaping public opinion. They do this by using the media and populist rhetoric to create “moral” perceptions in order to shape policy that is continually evolving in their direction.   Stepping back, one has to admire their success. They’ve used words like “pink slime” and “factory farming” masterfully.  

• The fact is that most people aren’t opposed to a product like LFTB, which reduces costs to consumers, raises prices for producers, and improves the safety and healthfulness of beef; but everyone can hate the concept of “pink slime.”  

• In addition, nearly everyone can line up to oppose factory farming and multinational large-scale food production entities. Most of these same people, however, don’t understand that these groups define a “factory farm” as any entity large enough to be economically viable, or that uses modern technology to produce a higher-quality product more efficiently.  

These groups champion the little guy, and even get some producers to stand with them. They also castigate the government and government involvement on issues they believe will increase the competitiveness of the industry while, at the same time, pleading for government intervention, rather than letting the marketplace function.   It’s the same concept that the Occupy Wall Street movement employs, which is to create an enemy that is perceived to be a dramatic minority or that is part of the “establishment.”  

In fact, these anti-meat groups are successful enough that their message is almost becoming mainstream in the minds of consumers in regard to animal production. Packers are held up to be inherently evil; confined animal feeding units are immoral; and large-scale production is wrong, as is the implementation of modern technologies in food production.   These groups will ally themselves with any group that opposes animal production; yet, they’re not perceived as affiliated with those groups, which increases their credibility. They’ve even been successful in attracting to their cause some producers who don’t understand that they are working for their own demise.

It’s for these reasons that these anti-modern, anti-capitalist, anti-technology groups are quickly becoming the largest threat to animal production.

As a fulltime rancher, Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how various consumer and political trends affect livestock production.

Click here for the original article  http://beefmagazine.com/blog/make-room-bigger-badder-foe

Following are links from various sources covering differing viewpoints …

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/03/28/chris-selley-pink-slime-is-benign/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/pink-slime-outrage-goes-viral

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Pink+Slime+controversy

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/

http://www.cattlenetwork.com/cattle-news/Science-must-guide-ag-policy

 

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Protein Modification treats and prevents Disease

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April 19  |  Latest News  |   Webmaster

Disease = “dis-ease”; not at ease; imbalance  (ed.)

Scientists elevate little-studied cellular mechanism to potential drug target

For years, science has generally considered the phosphorylation of proteins — the insertion of a phosphorous group into a protein that turns it on or off — as perhaps the factor regulating a range of cellular processes from cell metabolism to programmed cell death. Now, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have identified the importance of a novel protein-regulating mechanism — called sulfenylation — that is similar to phosphorylation and may, in fact, open up opportunities to develop new types of drugs for diseases such as cancer.

The study was published December 11, 2011, in an advance online edition of the journal Nature Chemical Biology.   “With this paper, we’ve elevated protein sulfenylation from a marker of oxidative stress to a bona fide reversible post translational modification that plays a key regulatory role during cell signaling,” said Kate Carroll, a Scripps Research associate professor who led the study. “The sulfenyl modification is the new kid on the block.”   During periods of cellular stress, caused by factors such as exposure to UV radiation or chronic disease states like cancer, the level of highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules can increase, resulting in inappropriate modification of proteins and cell damage. In sulfenylation, one oxidant, hydrogen peroxide, functions as a messenger that can activate cell proliferation through oxidation of cysteine residues in signaling proteins, producing sulfenic acid. Cysteine, an amino acid (natural protein building block), is highly oxidant sensitive.   Conventional wisdom has long held that if hydrogen peroxide does exist in the cell at any appreciable level, it represents a disease state, not a regulatory event. The new study shows that sulfenylation is actually a positive protein modification, and that it’s required for signaling through the pathway, a validation of a long-held belief in some scientific circles that hydrogen peroxide functions as a general signaling molecule, not an oxidative “bad boy” to be eliminated at all costs.   A New Chemical Probe   To explore the process, Carroll and her colleagues developed a highly selective chemical probe — known as DYn-2 — with the ability to detect minute differences in sulfenylation rates within the cell.   With the new probe, the team was able to show that a key signaling protein, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), is directly modified by hydrogen peroxide at a critical active site cysteine, stimulating its tyrosine kinase activity.   The technology described in the new paper is unique, Carroll said, because it allows scientists to trap and detect these modifications in situ, without interfering with the redox balance of the cell. “Probing cysteine oxidation in a cell lysate is like looking for a needle in a haystack,” she said, “our new approach preserves labile sulfenyl modifications and avoids protein oxidation artifacts that arise during cell homogenization.”   As with phosphorylation, future studies on sulfenylation will delve into the exciting discovery of new enzymes, new signaling processes, and new mechanisms of regulation.   Another broad impact of these findings, Carroll said, is to open up an entirely new mechanism to exploit for the development of therapeutics, particularly in cancer. “It should influence the design of inhibitors that target oxidant-sensitive cysteine residues in the future,” she said.

 More information: “Peroxide-dependent Sulfenylation of the EGFR Catalytic Site Enhances Kinase Activity,” Candice E. Paulsen et al., Nature Chemical Biology (2011).

Provided by The Scripps Research Institute (news : web)

Water Report double-speak

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April 17  |  Case Studies, Latest News, Reports, Tests, safe drinking water  |   Webmaster

Water test reports leave homeowners in need of a translator

By Laura Legere (Staff Writer)  

Published: April 16, 2012
 

In a recent study by Penn State University researchers about Marcellus Shale drilling and rural water supplies, 75 percent of homeowners surveyed said their water test reports were either somewhat or very difficult to understand.

The tools provided by laboratories to help residents interpret their water tests range from very thorough to none at all.

 

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/gas-drilling/water-test-reports-leave-homeowners-in-need-of-a-translator-1.1300620#ixzz1sEoWybxf

 

Contact the writer: llegere@timesshamrock.com

U.N. Water Report

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April 17  |  Latest News  |   Webmaster

 WHO, U.N.-Water Report Examines Access To Safe Drinking Water, Improved Sanitation

Monday, April 16, 2012

“Nearly 780 million people are deprived of safe drinking water — and 2.5 billion lack access to improved sanitation — all because governments aren’t spending scarce resources wisely, according to a joint report [.pdf] of the World Health Organization and U.N.-Water,” VOA News reports. Though “more than two billion people gained access to safe drinking water and 1.8 billion gained access to improved sanitation” between 1990 and 2010, billions of people still lack these basic services, the report noted, according to the news service.

“The data, collected from 74 developing nations, show countries suffering from a chronic lack of technicians, skilled labor and staff to operate and maintain sanitation and drinking water infrastructure,” VOA writes, adding, “The report says the total amount given in development aid for sanitation and drinking water increased by three percent — to $7.8 billion — from 2008 to 2010, but only half of that amount is allocated to regions where 70 percent of those lacking these services actually live: sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and South-Eastern Asia” (Schlein, 4/12). According to a U.N.-Water press release, “Nearly 80 percent of countries recognize the right to water, and just over half of them the right to sanitation. Realizing the rights to water and sanitation may help targeting resources to unserved population and avoid discrimination in the provision of [water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)] services” (4/12).

 

For the full report (pdf), click here

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