Friday, October 22


Not there yet, but getting ever closer: Here's two types of articles I've started skipping over as they're too plentiful and repetitive, but I'll stop to remark that that's a good sign of how common this is becoming: Here's one of a growing number of big-city upscale vegan restaurants, this one in Atlanta: "Lush is all-vegan and uses no animal products whatsoever. But owners Isaac Adelenge and Charlotte Macbagito create a savory menu and a relaxed, romantic atmosphere that will delight many non-vegetarians as well as strict vegans." Take note of the "but" joining those two sentences. I give that construction another three years, tops. And with new chichi cookbooks out all the time that serve veganism even if they don't go by that name (demonstrating our overlap with other emerging groups), there will be too many books like Elegant Dairy-Free Entertaining to mention individually. But they'll be out there, more and more.


The Government Accountability Office released a blistering report saying the USDA and FDA are failing to properly track meat recalls or enforcing them to the extent that unsafe meat doesn't get eaten. Less than 40 percent of recalled food is returned to stores or distributors. Here's an abstract, with links to full versions. Plenty of interesting stuff, including the FDA's mysteriously divergent public and private recall databases, but as far as I can tell, no in-depth examination of the "Friday Recall" syndrome.

Meanwhile, there's now a criminal probe under way in the 2002 Pilgrim's Pride recall for listeria in processed poultry. Remember how freakily that thing unfolded? I hope some heads will roll this time for a change, but I'm not holding my breath - except when I'm around one of their processing plants. "The inspector general audited 582 forms the Food Safety and Inspection Service used to monitor the recall, and found discrepancies on 389 of them - a 66 percent failure rate." That's a failure on the part of the USDA, in case the FSIS-talk obscures it. And as if to drive home the GAO's point, "the inspector general determined that only 5.5 million pounds [20%] of recalled poultry products were actually recovered by Pilgrim's Pride. 'The rest of the recalled product, almost 21.9 million pounds, was consumed in the marketplace or otherwise disposed of.'" Similarly, echoing the GAO concerns, "in many cases, the service [FSIS] didn't determine how much poultry Pilgrim's Pride customers purchased, and failed to document whether tainted poultry was located and destroyed, according to the reports. In some cases, the FSIS checked businesses that didn't purchase any of the tainted poultry products because inspectors 'didn't have a process for selecting customers.' The reports also determined FSIS failed to check up on the recall in a timely manner."

Thursday, October 21


Once again, there's "new evidence linking high fish consumption to potentially unsafe levels of mercury" - this from scientists at the University of North Carolina at Asheville who tested hair samples from 1,449 people nationwide. The more store-bought fish, locally caught fish and canned tuna a person consumes, the higher his or her hair mercury level tends to be, according to the study.

No real surprises here, except perhaps in what now constitutes a "heavy fish consumer": "The study found nearly 50 percent of the people who described themselves as heavy fish consumers exceeded that [dangerous mercury] level. Heavy fish consumers were defined in the study as people who eat five or more servings of fish a month." So in case you weren't aware, if you eat more than one serving of fish a week, you're a heavy fish consumer, with a 50-50 chance that you're packing the mercury to toxic levels.

Wednesday, October 20


This is pretty stunning: Nationwide food supplier Aramark did a survey of over 100,000 college students and found that "nearly a quarter said finding vegan meals on campus was important to them." That doesn't mean 25% of college students are vegans, of course, but it does mean food companies are increasingly going to have to take us seriously - and Aramark is doing so. They've added new menu items like "Sweet Thai Tofu Stir-Fry, Broccoli Teriyaki, Chili Garlic Stir-Fry, Vegan Cheese Quesadillas, Vegan 'Chicken' Burritos, Eggless 'Egg' Salad, 'Turkey' Subs, and Vegan 'Cheese' Burgers. Of course actual vegans don't need to have every meal revolve around meat/cheese substitutes, but these are good transitional choices for young people who are willing to try new things.

For anyone who thinks this is just Aramark patting themselves on the back, vegetarian/vegan options in school cafeterias are becoming a major issue, so far only chronicled on a case-by-case basis. For example, this story from the Flint Journal about high-school students' protest that all six pre-packaged specialty salads at their salad bar include meat, or this one from Lehigh University, where they just opened a vegan section of their dining hall due to students' pushing for more and better options. There are plenty more of these; someone with time on their hands should do a big wrap-up.

Tuesday, October 19


At long last, after many twists and turns in a truly bizarre case, the "Sausage King," Stuart Alexander, has been found guilty of murder. This is the meat-plant operator who shot and killed three USDA inspectors (and attempted to kill a fourth) who he felt were being too strict with him in insisting he adhere to basic foodborne-illness rules. The killings were captured on videotape, yet he tried to mount a defense to the effect that it was the inspectors' unreasonable demands that had driven him out of his mind.

Actually, it may have been the meat: After his lawyers called an expert to testify that Alexander's brain was too small to stop him from shooting federal inspectors in cold blood, the expert said no, his brain was "about normal for his age and gender, though it did appear a bit banged up and atrophied." Hmmmm. Excessive meat consumption is a known cause of brain degeneration - coincidence? To sum up, we have a man steeped in an industry of death, whose consumption of dead food may have made him brain-dead to the point he thought people's deaths were warranted to protect his own death-based business. And now it's up to the jury to decide whether he should be put to death. It's almost redundant now, isn't it?

Monday, October 18


That's "attacks" as a verb, not the "Atkins attacks" that afflict people whose arteries are clogged with delicious saturated fat. You may recall that Dr. Michael Greger earlier this year launched a site whose name was doubtless inspired by this one - Atkins Facts. The Atkins folks were none too pleased and have threatened a lawsuit over the painful truths documented on Dr. Greger's site, as well as the watering down of the brand. Ever the gentleman, Dr. Greger changed the name to Atkins Exposed, and has now posted an exhaustive rebuttal of the low-carb corporation's claims. It's a must-read.