Banned in Belgium; But in the USA, Food Safety Is Determined by Industry

The European Union (EU) is a regulatory body that sets limits and enacts laws that safeguard the health of the citizens within member states. In the U.S., limits and laws must pass through the filters of lobbyists whose influence of legislation is anything but motivated by health and fairness. The EU, despite its flaws and corruption and lethargy and elitism, has managed to create a number of fascinating guidelines. Here are a few EU rules with comparisons to how the U.S. deals with the same issues:

1. CARBON MONOXIDE IN MEAT AND FISH. The EU (in 2001) banned the use of carbon monoxide that is used to keep fish, beef, and pork looking pink and fresh. The Carbon Monoxide isn’t the health hazard, per se, but it can mask evidence of spoilage. Spoiled fish, beef, and pork often contain harmful bacteria. The FDA in the US considers the Carbon Monoxide a “color fixative.” But that fresh-looking beef, pork, and fish may, in fact, be on the shelf or in the restaurant well past the date that it is safe. When did this become a “big” issue in the U.S.? Here’s when (from The Washington Post, 2/20/06): “We feel it’s a huge consumer right-to-know issue,” said Donna Rosenbaum of Safe Tables Our Priority, an advocacy group in Burlington, Vt., created after four children died and hundreds became sick after eating tainted hamburgers from Jack in the Box restaurants in 1992 and 1993. In 2006, the Burlington group and the Consumer Federation of America wrote to the FDA in support of a ban.” No ban is in place.

2. BATTERY CAGES. By 2012, all poultry in Europe will have to have access to the outdoors. Scientists concluded that keeping the animals penned up is cruel. Here? Let the market decide. Or at least the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

3. ANTIBIOTICS. Banned. Why? Antibiotic resistant illnesses are caused in part by the use of antibiotics in livestock: 70% of U.S. livestock is treated with antibiotics. But according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “On January 1, 2006, the European Union banned the feeding of all antibiotics and related drugs to livestock for growth promotion purposes. The sweeping new policy follows up a 1998 ban on the feeding of antibiotics that are valuable in human medicine to livestock for growth promotion. Now, no antibiotics can be used in European livestock for growth promotion purposes.”

4. UNSUBSTANTIATED HEALTH CLAIMS. This is a personal favorite. All this hokum about healthy food is enabling prophets to profit. Maybe goat’s milk is good for you, maybe not. Maybe fiber will prevent cancer, maybe it won’t. Here’s what the EU did (from PubMedCentral-7/26/03): “Food and drink manufacturers will have to prove scientifically the health and nutritional claims they make for their products under new legislation tabled by the European Commission last week. The legislation would prevent labels that extol virtues attributed to many foods and food supplements we eat—such as being low in energy, fat free, or high in protein—unless the labels fully comply with clear standards. Similarly, vague terms such as ‘preserves youth,’ ‘improves your memory,’ or ‘reduces your calorie intake,’ which are used as marketing and advertising tools but cannot be substantiated, would also be banned.”

More in days ahead…

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