Monday, March 31, 2014

Global warming threats challenged

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) says global warming is not as bad as many believe.

It released a 1,062-page report Monday - Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts- that says the threats of famine are overblown.

Food production will increase in many areas, the report says.

Carbon dioxide, targeted as a greenhouse gas, is “a non-toxic, non-irritating, and natural component of the atmosphere,” the report says.

“Long-term carbon dioxide enrichment studies confirm the findings of shorter-term experiments, demonstrating numerous growth-enhancing, water-conserving, and stress-alleviating effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on plants growing in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,” the panel says in a news release about the report.

There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

Farmers and others who depend on rural livelihoods for income are benefitting from rising agricultural productivity around the world, including in parts of Asia and Africa where the need for increased food supplies is most critical.

“Rising temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels play a key role in the realization of such benefits,” the news release says.

Nor is there a huge threat to aquatic life, the panel says, because they have shown “considerable tolerance to temperatures and carbon dioxide levels predicted for the next several centuries.”

Nor will more people die as the globe warms, the panel says.

‘More lives are saved by global warming via the amelioration of cold-related deaths than are lost due to excessive heat.

“Global warming will have a negligible influence on human morbidity (deaths) and the spread of infectious diseases,” it says.

The panel says its report is backed by “thousands of citations to peer-reviewed scientific literature.”

In 2008, Lawrence Solomon, a Canadian environmentalist, wrote a book, The Deniers, that said much the same things as this report.

He also cited a wide range of leading scientists in debunking critics who say people are to blame for global warming.

Solomon did not, however, deny that there is global warming. He cited many other factors beyond human control that are responsible.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kosher chicken makes it into Maclean’s

The shortage of kosher chicken made it into Maclean’s Magazine’s April 14 issue where the writer highlights criticisms of supply management.

Reporter Justin Ling tells how Chai Kosher Poultry sold its plant supply quota (to Sargent Farms) and left the Ontario market in the lurch with only one kosher chicken supplier for all of Canada – Marvid of Montreal.

The company could not meet demand, so hiked prices by about 50 per cent.

Ling quotes Richard Rabkin saying “the effect on the  kosher community has been quite drastic” and has hit the grocery budgets of the Orthodox Jewish community right across Canada.

Ling also tells how Alan Burke of the East Beach Jewish Community Association is leading an effort to re-open Chai Kosher Poultry, but is running into trouble lining up supplies.

Buying plant-supply quota from other processors is too expensive and so far the chicken board has not given the Jews chicken supply through its new specialty markets policy.

Maclean’s says nothing about the lack of chicken for CAMI International Poultry Inc. which had its Quebec supplies cut off when the marketing boards and large-volume processors in Ontario and Quebec made a deal to stop trade in live chicken.

That has left the Asian community in the Toronto area without a supplier of Hong Kong dressed chicken which have heads and feet left on.

CAMI is taking the chicken marketing boards and the federal government to court in an effort to get chicken supplies to revive its business and serve the Asian market.

Ling also tells how the kosher community was left without cheese this winter when the federal trade department stopped issuing supplementary import permits. There is no kosher cheese processor in Canada.

After the Jews protested, the federal government re-instated permits to import kosher cheese.
It has not granted similar import permits to CAMI.

John Slot of the Ontario Independent Poultry Processors Association has said privately that the situation simply shows that the Jewish community has more political clout than the Asians.

And neither one, it seems, has as much clout at the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board.

Egg case documents released

More than two years after Ontario Farmer asked under Freedom of Information legislation, documents have finally been released showing how the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission dealt with allegations of widespread cheating in the egg industry.

The commission finally hired an investigator, but limited his investigation to governance issues at the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board.

That falls far short of what whistleblower Norman Bourdeau outlined in a long and detailed list of allegations filed with the commission in April, 2012.

It also falls far short of the public inquiry requested by lawyer Donald Good on Jan. 5, 2011, acting on behalf of Verified Eggs Canada Inc. which is owned by Svante Lind of Blackstock.

The commission responded, asking Good to provide evidence. Good declined, saying it would be improper to provide evidence before a public inquiry takes place in a setting where what’s said can be challenged by lawyers.

He also notes that the commission acted improperly by consulting the egg board prior to any public inquiry, alleges that it appears that commission staff even helped the egg board to craft its reaction to the complaints and notes that the commission failed to let him know that it had rejected Lind’s request for an inquiry.

“It was only through Freedom of Information that this prior decision came to light,” Good wrote more than three years ago.

Good also noted that “the major impediment raised by the commission appears to be the court proceedings in Toronto (where Lind filed a lawsuit against the egg board, Burnbrae Farms Ltd. and L.H. Gray and Son Ltd. The two companies grade 88 per cent of the eggs produced in Ontario.

“At the present time, there are no court proceedings between Verified Eggs Canada Inc. and Egg Farmers of Ontario,” Good responded, so that excuse doesn't hold water.

And “Bourdeau is not a party to the Toronto proceedings,” he added, knocking out another commission excuse.

The court “proceedings are not a bar to the commission exercising its authority and obligations under Section 3 of the Farm Products Marketing Act with respect to its oversight authority of the Egg Farmers of Ontario,” Good wrote.

He adds that the court has no oversight authority over the egg marketing board. That is the responsibility of the commission.

Good also complains that the egg board, through then-chair Carolynne Griffiths, attacked the character of Bourdeau.

“I understand that section 425 of the Criminal Code provides protection for whistleblowers in Canada,” Good responds, yet the egg board “is asking the commission to make a negative inference on Mrs. Bourdeau’s character based on unsubstantiated opinion.”

Good also notes that the commission chairman, Geri Kamenz, wrote that issues related to egg grading fall under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and that’s where allegations of cheating on egg grading should be taken.

Good responds that the commission has “specific and exclusive jurisdiction” over the egg marketing board, so “there can be no interference with other authorities (such as the food inspection agency) in the exercise of their respective but different jurisdictions.”

Bourdea’s detailed allegations include claims that L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. cheated the egg board, farmers and the egg-buying public. Gray has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

Among Bourdeau’s specific allegations are:

·      - Gray set automatic grading equipment to include five to seven per cent of unqualified eggs into Grade A retail-ready cartons. Some were cracks, some were dirty and some the wrong size.

·      The percentage of Ontario eggs graded A is consistently higher than in other provinces.

·      The egg board has not collected grading summary reports from Gray, so is unable to calculate the percentage that are Graded A. Nor are farmers provided copies of the grading summary reports. 

  -  The egg board has failed to require Gray to provide farmers with printouts of the actual grading for their eggs. If farmers had both sets of information, they could discover whether Gray is cheating. So could the egg board.

·      Egg producers are intentionally over-paid for bad eggs, the egg board is collecting levies on these bad eggs and the public is cheated. He calculated the over-payment to Gray’s producers at a minimum of $1,773,250 for 2010.

·      Gray could be manipulating grading to move large eggs into the lower-priced medium category, thereby making up for any over-payments to farmers and the egg board.

·      Gray cheated the salmonella enteriditis fund by claiming birds were pullets when they were actually 60 weeks old and nearing the end of their lifetime in the barn. The compensation fund pays according to the number of weeks remaining in the normal egg-laying life of the birds.

·      Gray cheats on the eggs-for-processing business by picking and choosing which producers will be enrolled, picks old-age flocks with a higher percentage of poor-quality eggs yet charges the egg board as if the eggs were average quality, mixes in returns from stores “and other under-grade eggs” and often includes Grade B eggs.

·      “The grading summaries for these eggs are always manipulated,” alleges Bourdeau, and further distorts the percentage of undergrades Gray reports to the egg board for its Nest Run program.

·      Gray finds it easy to cheat on the Nest Run program because the eggs go to its own egg-processing plants.

·      There are so many bad eggs mixed in that the yields at the processing plants are relatively low, so Gray asks for more (lower priced) industrial eggs and that is “further cheating (of) the system.”

Bourdeau was Gray’s information technology officer and, as such, had access to all of the company’s electronic records.

He has made a copy of Gray’s hard-drive data. It is currently under court protection, held by a Kitchener lawyer, pending the outcome of legal wrangling between Good and Alison Webster, lawyer for Gray.

She has consistently tried to block the release of any information about Gray and to keep the electronic records from being used to determine the accuracy of allegations Lind and his Best Choice Eggs Ltd. have made against the egg board, Burnbrae Farms Ltd. and Gray.

In those allegations, Good claims Burnbrae also cheated just as Gray did. Owner Joe Hudson is on court record claiming the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a tolerance of five to seven per cent for undergrades. There is no regulation or information from the CFIA to back that claim. The CFIA regulation has zero tolerance for under grades at the egg-grading station.

There is currently an appeal by Good against a court decision earlier this year to remove Burnbrae from the lawsuit.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lodge ordered to spend $1 million on welfare

A judge has ordered Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. to invest $1 million in welfare initiatives over the next three years.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Nancy Kastner issued the order after Maple Lodge pleaded guilty to 18 charges of animal cruelty related to the transportation of chicken to its plant at Norval, near Brampton, Ont.

Kastner achieved her aim by putting the company on probation for three years and ordering it to make the investments so it complies with Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations for chicken transport.

She suspended the 18 counts for the duration of the probation.

Kastner also ordered the company to post information on its company website about what it did to draw the charges.

The court earlier convicted Maple Lodge on two counts relating to birds trucked during the winter of 2008-09 and Kastner imposed a fine of $80,000 for those convictions.

Kastner said the company failed to provide adequate staff training, enough workers or adequate equipment.

The lawyer for the government said Maple Lodge had a “religious dedication” to getting enough birds to the plant to keep processing lines running.

Maple Lodge argued that animal welfare infrations will continue within the chicken industry as long as the marketing board regulations pressure processors to take producers’ birds on schedule, regardless of the weather.

The marketing board imposes penalties on farmers who exceed their quotas, set in kilograms, and birds continue to gain weight if they can’t be marketed on schedule.

Kastner ordered the company to file quarterly reports indicating it’s in compliance with welfare standards. It slaughters about half a million birds per day.

Maple Lodge owns Nadeau Poultry in New Brunswick and it, too, has faced animal-cruelty charges and has been fined by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Court rejects COOL appeal

Meat packers and the Canadian Pork Council have lost their court appeal to block implementation of the new U.S. Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations.

The three judges were unanimous, so the regulations are legal, as far as the courts are concerned.

While expressing disappointment with the decision, the Canadian Pork Council noted that it has two other irons in the fire.

One is continued lobbying of Washington politicians.

The other is an appeal to the World Trade Organization. A disputes-settling panel there has heard the lawyers’ presentations and is currently involved in reaching a decision.

The U.S. COOL regulations are estimated to be costing Canadian hog producers about a billion dollars per year and beef producers about $600,000 per year, mainly because U.S. packers won’t bid full price for Canadian livestock, so neither do Canadian packers have to match U.S. prices.

FDA open to internet complaints

In the wake of Zilmax situation, the United States Food and Drug Administration is allowing complaints about food safety, including drugs, to be filed via the internet.

So why not Canada too?

Merck withdrew Zilmax beef promotant from the market after Tyson, then other meat packers, said they had seen so many crippled cattle that they would no longer buy those fed Zilmax.

More recently, university researchers say they believe there were thousands of cattle deaths at feedlots using Zilmax, yet less than 300 reports had been filed with the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA says it has opened a new Web portal designed to give food manufacturers, drug manufacturers and the general public the opportunity to report safety issues with the food delivered to livestock nationwide.

The Safety Reporting Portal aims to “streamline the process of reporting product safety issues” to both the FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through both voluntary and mandatory reporting, according to the site.

It invites reports about safety issues with a specific product or potential harmful effects they believe are related to the product. Veterinarians, health care providers, public health officials, consumers and researchers are included on the list of people that the agencies want to hear from in the event of food safety problems stemming from animal food given to livestock.

The portal is part of a continuing effort by the FDA to establish more effective product safety channels to protect the food chain, according to the site.

We could surely benefit from something similar in Canada.

European study finds antibiotic resistance

A study in Europe has found that half of meat and poultry contains Salmonella bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and 47 per cent have Campylobacter bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
However, the researchers also found that these bacteria could still be controlled with antimicrobials available to treat humans.

The study results were released this week by the European Food Safety Authority.

It also reported that resistance to a combined group of antimicrobials remains low.

While this means that treatment options for serious infections with these zoonotic bacteria are available in most cases, the fact that antimicrobial resistance was commonly detected is cause for concern, the authors say.

Pink slime court csse proceeds

ABC television news has lost its move to have the pink-slime defamation lawsuit against it dismissed.
Judge Cheryle Gering says calling the product from Beef Products Inc. (BPI) “pink slime” could be “reasonably interpreted” as implying it’s not fit to eat.

She ruled on Thursday to allow most of BPI’s $1.2 billion defamation case against ABC News and others to proceed.

She did not rule on whether defamation occurred, only that in 22 of the 27 claims, including alleged product disparagement and interference with business relationships, BPI could continue to pursue its case against the network, and on-air personalities Jim Avila and Diane Sawyer, according court documents.

"The entirety of the broadcasts can be reasonably interpreted as insinuating that plaintiffs are improperly selling a product that is not nutritious and/or not safe for the public's consumption," the South Dakota judge wrote in her ruling.

Gering also said the contexts in which ABC made certain of its statements justified allowing BPI company to continue its case.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

End coming to antibiotics for growth

Twenty-five of 26 drug companies have told the United States Food and Drug Administration that they will stop selling antibiotics as growth promotants for livestock and poultry.

Although Canadian officials have said nothing, it’s almost certain the same thing will happen here simply to preserve the U.S. market for Canadian livestock and meat.

The companies are going to either withdraw the drugs completely from the farm markets or make them available only under a veterinarian’s prescription.

The Food and Drug Administration wants to limit use of antibiotics in food animals to curb the potential for antimicrobial resistance in humans.

The antibiotics will be allowed for farm use to treat bacterial infections and diseases.

The 25 companies account for 99.95 percent of sales.

They are:
  • ADM Alliance Nutrition, Inc.
  • Agri Laboratories, Ltd.
  • Bayer Healthcare LLC, Animal Health Division
  • Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc.
  • Contemporary Products, Inc.
  • Cross Vetpharm Group Ltd.
  • Elanco Animal Health, A Division of Eli Lilly & Co.
  • First Priority, Inc.
  • G.C. Hanford Manufacturing Co.
  • Huvepharma AD
  • Intervet, Inc.
  • Med-Pharmex, Inc.
  • Merial Ltd.
  • Micro Beef Technologies LTD
  • Novartis Animal Health US, Inc.
  • Pennfield Oil Co.
  • Phibro Animal Health Corp.
  • Quo Vademus, LLC
  • Ridley USA Inc.
  • Sparhawk Laboratories, Inc.
  • Strategic Veterinary Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  • Veterinary Services, Inc.
  • Vetoquinol N.-A., Inc.
  • Virbac AH, Inc.
  • Zoetis Inc.

Meats might cause gum disease

A binding agent used by meat and poultry packers may be contributing to gingivitis, a gum disease.

Scientists at Forsyth, an independent, not-for-profit research institute specializing in oral health and related-conditions, along with a colleague from Northwestern University, say that Transgultaminase 2 (TG2), is a key component in the process of gum disease.

Meat and poultry processors have been using it for more than 10 years as a binder to stick small pieces together.

The research found that TG2 helps Porphyromonas gingivalis stick to cells, but when they “silenced” TG2, Porphyromonas gingivalis was diminished.

“Once established, Porphyromonas gingivalis is very hard to get rid of,” Dr. Heike Boisvert, assistant member of the staff in the Department of Microbiology at Forsyth, said in a news release.

“The bacterium changes conditions in the surrounding environment to ensure perfect growth; unfortunately, those changes, if untreated, can result in a loss of supportive tissue for our teeth.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Food-borne illnesses vastly under-estimated

Doug Powell, who holds a doctorate in food-safety communications, says the number of people who are sickened by food poisoning is vastly under-estimated.

“In general, to be captured in a Canadian surveillance system, a sick individual must:

-       seek care;

-       have a sample (stool, urine or blood) requested;

-       submit a sample for testing;

-       the sample must be tested with a test capable of identifying the causative agent;
-       the positive test result must be reported to the surveillance system.”

Given all of these hurdles, Powell says Canada’s Public Health service captures “only a small portion of total illnesses” and says there is both”under-diagnosis and under-reporting taking place.”

It’s in that context that he notes that officials in both the United States and Canada have cited changing figures for the number of food-borne and water-borne illnesses each year.

“For years it was one person in four” for the U.S., Powell writes on his internet “” website.

At that rate, 76 million people were sick every year.

“The Canadians and Australians eventually did their own estimates and came up with one in three.

“Then the Americans revised their number to one in six, or 48 million people barfing per year.

“Now the Canadians have revised their number to one in eight.

“This doesn’t mean food is safer or worse, just that better estimates make more accurate estimations – and these are still vast estimations,” Powell says.

At one in eight, that’s four million Canadians who are sickened by food or water every year.

Laplante battle with chicken board continues

The long-running battle between Robert Laplante and his Laplante Poultry Farm business continues at the appeals tribunal.

The Chicken Farmers of Ontario and the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors are fighting Laplante on several fronts, judging by a tribunal decision recently revealed in a posting on the internet.
Laplante wants to process chicken produced by Francophone quota holders in Eastern Ontario. They are currently marketed to Quebec processors.

The Association of Ontario Chicken Processors (AOCP) made a deal with Laplante on May 11, 2012, granting him 156,449 kilograms of chicken for processing. The chicken board endorsed that deal and makes sure Laplante gets the birds specified.

After that deal was made, the AOCP and the chicken board made a deal with their Quebec counterparts to stop trade in live chickens between Ontario and Quebec.

That prompted Laplante to file an appeal with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Appeal Tribunal, seeking more chicken for his processing plant.

The hearing began last September, but was adjourned when both the chicken board and the AOCP refused to produce documents Laplante requested.

And then the chicken board and the AOCP said this case ought not to be settled by the tribunal because the deal the AOCP and Laplante made in 2012 calls for disputes to be settled by arbitration.

The AOCP told the tribunal, during a pre-hearing conference earlier this month, that it intends to file for arbitration.

The tribunal decision is that the appeal should go ahead, provided that arbitration has not begun by March 12.

According to the tribunal website, two hearing dates have now been set to continue dealing with the issues.

On April 8 to 11, the hearing will deal with Laplante’s request for documents from the chicken board and the AOCP.

The tribunal has scheduled the main appeal to be heard April 28 to May 1 in Cobourg.
In that main case, Laplante is seeking either a base plant supply quota of 1,082,650 or special status as a French-language processing plant to handle chicken from special status French-language chicken producers.

The French-language producers have won a long court battle to be able to market their birds to Quebec processors. That court decision forced Ontario to yield some market share to Quebec, undermining the deal to ban inter-provincial trade in live birds.