Politics of the Plate: Mystery Meats


In 2002, Congress passed a law requiring country-of-origin labeling on all seafood, meat, poultry, and produce sold in this country. Someone, apparently, thought we had the right to know where our food comes from—a case of rare governmental foresight, given the current wave of food scares coming out of China. But if you wander past the meat counter at your local supermarket, you will notice that most, if not all, of the cuts on display bear no indication of where they were produced. It turns out that the big beef industry, which processes a great deal of imported meat, is so powerful that it ignores the law with impunity, aided and abetted by Congressman Henry Bonilla, a Texas Republican. Rep. Bonilla pushed through a series of measures that delayed application of the law to meat (but not seafood). The most recent—and cynical—forbade the Agriculture department from spending money to implement the law. But that loophole closes in September, and according to United Press, some Democrats are pushing to put some real teeth into the labeling law. They face formidable opposition from the powerful meatpacking lobby, but one old foe is no longer a threat—Bonilla was defeated in last November's election. Is there a message there for other legislators?

The China Syndrome Continues

The FDA recently recalled two brands of "healthy" snack foods because the flavoring agent with which they were sprayed (imported from China) was contaminated with salmonella. More frightening was that Veggie Booty Snack Food and Super Veggie Tings were marketed specifically toward young children, who are particularly at risk from the bacterium. The name of the company that flavors its goodies with this Chinese spray? Robert's American Gourmet.


If you thought that McDonald's greasy food was only good for producing heartburn and super-sized waistlines, you were wrong. The Telegraph reports that by the end of this year the chain will power all 155 of its trucks in the U.K. with recycled cooking oil from its restaurants, cutting its carbon emissions by 75 percent.

The Crate Escape

Those oinks of joy you hear emanate from the 4,000 breeding sows in Oregon. Governor Ted Kulongoski has just signed a bill into law banning the use of gestation crates--the cruel, two-foot-wide metal cages that prevent pregnant pigs from lying down, turning around, and extending their legs. The bad news is that the law doesn't come into effect until 2013. The good news is that Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio has introduced a bill in the House that would ban the inhumane cages nationwide.

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