Saturday, December 20


The saying goes, "There'll always be an England." But maybe not, if they keep eating millions of eggs with toxic drugs in them or the two-thirds of turkeys that are infected with campylobacter. Boy, it's a good thing we have such a powerful watchdog as the USDA making sure none of that bad stuff is happening here...

Friday, December 19


Not much of a story, but who could resist being able to use that headline? "Pop star Pink has asked magicians Siegfried and Roy in an open letter to liberate their 55-year-old elephant. Gildah has been part of the duo's act for 13 years but has been kept alone in a Las Vegas pen since Roy Horn was mauled by a tiger in October." Good luck on that one, Pink.

Thursday, December 18


It's not a new question, but, ya think Mad Cow might be already in the USA? While the scourge continues to spread across Europe (no longer newsworthy, of course), and finds frightening ways to transfer, the orthodox answer to the question of BSE in our cattle is "no way!" - but the stonewall is starting to crumble. For one thing, a "US Beef Delegation" is now in Europe expressly studying "a post-BSE cattle industry" and visiting "directly with the international experts on BSE regarding the risks that such a disease poses to the US cattle industry." Interesting. Perhaps they've heard the news about the clusters of vCJD cases around the US that may or may not be Mad Cow.

A UPI story reports that our monitoring system for cases of CJD "could be missing tens of thousands of victims" by mistakenly considering "sporadic" CJD as unrelated to Mad Cow. "Clusters of CJD have been reported in various areas of the United States -- Pennsylvania in 1993, Florida in 1994, Oregon in 1996, New York in 1999-2000 and Texas in 1996. In addition, several people in New Jersey developed CJD in recent years, including a 56 year old woman who died on May 31, 2003. Although in some instances, a mad cow link was suspected, all of the cases ultimately were classified as sporadic." Here's the thing, though: "People who develop CJD from eating mad-cow-contaminated beef have been thought to develop a specific form of the disorder called variant CJD. But new research, released last December, indicates the mad cow pathogen can cause both sporadic CJD and the variant form."

It's not just scientists, but courts, who are beginning to question the assurance that there couldn't possibly be Mad Cow here. A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday revived Farm Sanctuary's lawsuit aimed at stopping the sale of "downed" animals for human food because of a fear of mad cow disease. The lower court had said the risk to the food supply was too hypothetical and speculative to allow Farm Sanctuary to sue the USDA. The appeals panel disagreed - in other words, the risk is no longer so "hypothetical and speculative" in legal terms.

Wednesday, December 17


As "the flu" becomes the latest "horrific" terror to grip our nation's psyche, it's worth noting that these viruses don't just appear out of nowhere. They come, as often as not, from animals kept for food. And the way we treat animals is directly related to the danger our species is putting itself in: "Today, the growing number of birds and pigs raised for human food consumption and housed in close quarters serve as 'mixing bowls' where influenza viruses trade genes, increasing the likelihood that a novel strain will emerge, experts say." This is serious stuff, folks: "Until 1997, researchers thought that flu viruses passed from birds to pigs to people. But a 1997 outbreak in Hong Kong showed that an avian influenza could directly infect and kill humans. Many hoped that outbreak-contained with a massive slaughter of chickens-was an isolated incident. But last year, in China and in the Netherlands, bird flu again infected and killed people and spread from person to person."

Meanwhile, South Korea has just been hit by a "deadly bird flu." 20,000 chickens died at a farm outside of Seoul earlier this month. "Since then, the agriculture ministry has culled 5,000 other chickens at the farm as a precaution and has quarantined poultry within a 10 kilometer (6-mile) radius. On Tuesday, ducks at a farm near Umsung also tested positive for the bird flu, and authorities ordered 3,300 of the ducks to be killed and buried." The AP article offers this: "South Korean officials say there is only a small chance of the virus crossing from birds to humans because most strains of H5N1 are not transmittable. " Oh, whew, that's reassuring. But then they turn right around and inform us, "Early this month in Hong Kong, a 5-year-old boy came down with bird flu, but not the same H5N1 strain that caused a deadly outbreak in 1997." Uh-huhhh.....

UPDATE 12/23: The Bird Flu is Spreading Fast Nationwide, reports Reuters, with half a million chickens and ducks so far killed to try to stop it.

Tuesday, December 16


There have been rumblings about mercury in tuna for pregnant women, and now they're turning into full-fledged across-the-board warnings. A new U.S. advisory recommends a limit of 12 ounces of fish and/or shellfish each week. Hmmm. Kinda hard to keep up the Omega-3 intake on that paltry amount. Tuna joins a rogues gallery including some fish - swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish - that should be avoided altogether.

Monday, December 15


Collette Heimowitz, vice president of Atkins Health and Medical Information Services, told the BBC that anyone on the Atkins Diet must "follow the programme to the letter" to avoid the risk of side effects, and that it could in fact be "deadly" to mix high carbohydrate foods with high fat foods. She was reacting to a BBC show in which three doctors followed the diet for a month: One of the doctors was hospitalised and given morphine to control chronic stomach pains. He had to be fed intravenously. Another found that her levels of "bad" cholesterol had risen above a clinically safe level. Nigel Denby, a dietician who closely monitored the health of the three doctors as they followed the diet, said "The nature of the diet can affect the way bones use calcium. This, in turn, can lead to an increased risk of developing kidney stones. [Atkins-style diets] have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis. If followed for a prolonged period of time, high protein, low carb diets can actually be harmful to your health." Say, didn't that guy Atkins follow the diet for a prolonged period of time? Oh yeah...