I have been doing Toxic Trespass radio for many years, focused on how toxins become cancer and other maladies. Cancer has just gotten too prevalent in our relatively pristine rural environment. In fact many of these cancers have begun appearing in places they had not in the past. For example, brain cancer at one time an occupational cancer is appearing in children. It took my father, a chemical engineer at a young age. He worked around refining plants. I recognize that one toxin does not fully create the problems, but the mix and synergistic combination does.
On my show, I continue to remind folks to become part of the solution by contacting manufacturers to let them know why they are abandoning their product. Listeners choose to avoid products that appear flawed with odd ingredients or GMO components. Manufacturer 800 lines are there for the companies to get feedback and that feedback is crucial for them to focus their product lines in the direction that produces sales. It is a more expedient means of safer product evolution to give direct feedback rather then let them guess or produce more deleterious products. Why not evolve quickly towards safer products?
Recently a young teenager named Sara Kavanaugh from the Midwest did exactly that, but in a bigger way. She decided as a vegetarian (perhaps a bigger story there,) she had a desire to control what she consumed and thus read all labels including a Gatorade© label. She had returned from vigorous activities outside with her little brother and pre-planned the event; stashing a couple of Gatorades in the fridge to return to. But keeping with her commitment, she read the label and discovered something called Brominated Vegetable Oil (or BVO) a common emulsifying additive in citrus flavored drinks. She did what any red blooded wired/wireless kid would do. She googled BVO and discovered a nasty secret. BVO is not only bad for us, caused real reactions in computer geeks, who would binge on it while pounding the keyboard in online gaming, but also that BVO is also a flame retardant. She did the right thing, she called Pepsico, the manufacturers to ask why. She was told BVO was necessary, safe and would continue to be used.
Her happy refreshment stayed cap as she logged on to Change.org. Now only an internet savvy person would know about Change.org and I supposed Facebookers are tuned that way, but Sara took a bigger step and put up a petition against BVO in Gatorade; explaining how the BVO was there, what it did, and how the company persisted, and was ignoring the concerns of consumers. Viola! Some 200,000 signatures latter, Pepsico took BVO out of their Gatorade.
Then Sara learned more about manufacturers. They don’t like changing, and they weren’t going to logically remove BVO from all of their other drinks. The bean counters at Pepsico should have known better as Sara is going after one product after another in a meaningful adolescent challenge to dangerous willful manufacturing. Target: Powerade. Hallelujah Sara Kavanaugh! Here is the real hope for this century’s change.
Poking around on Change.org, I found another story as a Mother challenged the food industries choice to use something known in slang as “Pink Slime,” a common additive to our cheaper meat products and fast food burgers, yet in this case in school food. What is pink slime? Think meat trimmings that had previous gone to pet foods. I can get graphic here, but let’s spare our stomachs and just say, things we would not normally eat. These waste products became a big industry for Beef Products Inc., who took these wastes, ground them up, centrifuged out the unpleasant gristle etc. and then added a substance to eliminate pathogens common to these wastes (E. coli and Salmonella,) and created a multimillion dollar business. The sanitizer is ammonia in some other chemical form. They presented the results of their In-house studies to the FDA and USDA, who accepted this as a product and actually no longer examined this company’s product as the studies show they were safe (the first big red flag in my opinion, “In house studies.”)
Immediately, sales shot up as the company target school districts to use their blocks of pink slime as a food extender in meat loaf, burgers and other ground beef products. This saved school districts 3 cents a pound on ground meat. They also made big sales to fast food companies because the pink slime added more color to ground beef and removed pathogens. But there are some rubs in this and they aren’t herbal meat rubs either. Penitentiary meats had a strong ammonical scent that concerned food preparers, who worried that perhaps the meat had gone bad. It seems the company got a bit overzealous in the amount of ammonia they added. The food was actually safe with regards to pathogen and the industry and some scientist claim that these levels of ammonia are safe for consumption. Then a study of school lunches discovered too many cases of bacteria and salmonella in the BPI laden beef products. It appears to be plant specific and Cargill one of the large buyers would not buy from those plants. When this was presented to the FDA, they pulled their waiver of BPI meat inspections and in some schools, local officials stopped using the pink slimed meat. Back to the original story.
The Mother simply wanted pink slime out of school meat products and the Change.org petition garnered 200,000 signatures. The USDA said that they would change the policy so that children have a choice of food with pink slime in it and food without it. Huge red flag! A choice on something this technical and important for children? Why a choice?
At one of the sites talking about pink slime, the author is a vegetarian and well; vegetarians discussing the downsides of meat to meat eaters is just a bad idea. She inflamed the meat industry and scientists were making comments about the crucial use of ammonia to make meat pathogen food. Some commenter suggested a 2009 New York time piece, which I immediately went to:
Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned, by Michael Moss
Here is my drift. Highly concentrated meat plants (lots of animals) have potential venues for contamination. Rather than discover and tighten up on those contamination venues, or lowering the density of animals, the big manufacturing solution is to add something potential low level toxic to meat to kill the pathogens. It is a regular resolve by bigger manufacturers to find an additive band aid. For this author, a logical approach is to tight up, and decrease animal numbers and avoid questionable additives.
What you can do locally to insure you are not eating sanitized meat trimmings (AKA offal pink slime?) Purchase better cuts; avoiding cheap pre-wrapped ground meat that has pre-added pink slime, or make your own ground round or watch your butcher grind it (insuring no pink slime is added.) Better yet buy local meat, preferably grass fed meat that has now antibiotics or GMOs from BT corn in it.
Simultaneously to reading about Sara Kavanaugh, I was told by a local woman that she went cold turkey on cheap chicken because the antibiotics in them are causing repetitive bladder infections. My eyebrow rose. She told me to google chicken, antibiotics and bladder infections together and see what I might find. Well, I used another search engine to support the other search companies and found a related story from July last year. My eyebrows need readjustment at this point. Scientist discovered that the E. coli associated with bladder infections were related to those that were being addressed by antibiotics in chickens. Chickens and other animals are given antibiotics again because of dense high population production and also because it puts more ounces/pounds on them. In fact some 80% of the antibiotics made, go to this sort of production. Now most of us recall how important antibiotics are in solving problems like tuberculosis, and serious infections. What then do companies and our regulators continually glossed over that dealing with pest by one means develops resistance to the method. What that means with antibiotics is that the pests are no longer controllable by some antibiotics. It means some antibiotics become ineffective. One wonders; how many of our antibiotics armament have lost potency due to this careless use? It also explains the lunacy of using GMO products with either controls or with built in tolerance to pesticides (i.e., Round Up©.) The latter allows a plant to be doused repetitively with Round Up, but it results in super weeds. It is for that reason that Monsanto is developing a second line that is 2,4 D resistant GMOs, based on another more toxic herbicide, a part of Agent Orange cocktail that maimed so many in Vietnam. The idea finally is to switch back and forth from one herbicide to another using the company’s proprietary brand of pesticide. The result though is a lot of pesticides and potential resistance and failure in time. It is double dipping at the farmer and creates an addiction that in time that will fail. I should add all herbicide cause NonHodgekin’s Lymphoma a soft tissue cancer. I digress.
The chicken meat industry has been slowly moving away from antibiotics, but in my mind they should never have been allowed to use these precious medical tools in such a wide scale to solve a problem that could be resolved simply by lower density and better sanitation.
All of these issues revolve around food safety, which points to regulators at the FDA and USDA, who are ‘protecting’ us from bad decisions. Yet it seems that the FDA and USDA are the target of heavy lobbying by the industries they regulate that gets congress to restrict regulation or that these regulators are populated with administrators, who are from the industry they are regulating. Essentially, it is a farce. The bottom line for health is “buyer beware!” Not a very comforting idea when it is your child eating unregulated foods in school.
There are so many additives that need real regulation it is scary and seems insurmountable yet Europe has done this. Why? They have single payer health insurance and the Government knows that sick folks cost. They have to keep the cost of health issues down and controlling toxins is a big way to do that. Rather than let folks get strange diseases, they have chosen to study, classify and restrict the use of some additives. Why not here, I hear you readers wondering? Yeah why not?
Meanwhile we are left to very motivated savvy 15 year olds, Mothers on Change.org and other organizations like the Environmental Working Group, fighting an uphill battle against well financed manufacturers. Sara Kavanaugh won though. Kudos Sara!