Dioxin. E-coli. It’s what’s for lunch.

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1997:

LOS ANGELES––As many as 650 cases of fried
chicken possibly containing trace amounts of dioxin were
divided among 77 Los Angeles Unified School District
cafeterias, an internal memo revealed in mid-August––of
which 649 cases and part of the last case were served to
children before the contamination was detected. The dioxin
came from a kind of clay, mined in Mississippi, that was
mixed into the chickens’ feed to absorb moisture that might
have clogged automatic feeders.
Some of the dioxin-tainted chicken was also
believed to have been sent to schools in Georgia during
January and February 1997, and October 1996.
The dioxin flap shortly preceded the Hudson
Foods recall of more than 25 million pounds of hamburger
that might have become contaminated with e-coli, but
whether it will actually presage any drop in school-promoted
hamburger consumption is yet to be seen.

Turkey consumption will likely be up, as the
USDA on August 1 bought 20 million pounds of white
turkey meat to offset a glut on the market, which is to be
distributed through the national school lunch program.
Schools should be especially nervous about e-coli
due to the greater susceptibility of children, who may be
killed by ingesting it or develop severe brain damage––like
Tom Dowling, four, of Hertfordshire, England, who
apparently only touched grass where a goat shedding e-coli
had walked during an early July field trip to a farm.
As British meat consumption recovered from a
year-long slump caused by the March 1996 disclosure that
bovine spongiform encephalopathy seems to be causing a
form of the rare Cruetzfeld-Jakob disease in humans, the
Dowling case reminded Britons that food poisoning cases,
mostly associated with meat, are up 400% in 10 years,
with 84,348 episodes reported in 1996, and are killing hundreds
of the victims.
Schools have new reason to question serving
cow’s milk, from research by Edwin Gale, of Bristol
University in England, and Robert Elliott, of the Child
Health Research Foundation at Auckland Medical School in
New Zealand, who earlier this year in separate studies confirmed
that cow’s milk may have caused a 4% increase in
juvenile onset diabetes over the past 11 years and a 10%
increase among children under five. Girls are most affected.
In work sponsored by the New Zealand dairy board,
Elliott identified as probably culprit a mutant protein found
in low-fat, high-protein milk, called beta casein A-1.
About 80% of the cows in New Zealand produce the mutant
protein, Elliott said, but expressed hope that the predisposition
to make it might eventually be eliminated from dairy
herds. About one person in 20 is at potential risk of developing
diabetes, of whom about one in five actually get it.
Schools had already done most of their spring
food purchasing last March, when USDA acting undersecretary
for food, nutrition, and consumer services Mary Ann
Keefe added yogurt to cheese, beans, eggs, and peanut
butter on a list of foods acceptable in school lunches as
meat alternatives. Fighting the addition of yogurt to the
list for 15 years, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
expected some loss of a market share now amounting to six
pounds of hamburger served to each of the 25 million children
who eat USDA-subsidized lunches. But immediate
market share was the least of the beef industry concerns.
The greater issue was that dietary habits formed in childhood
persist throughout life.
Just as the yogurt decision was issued, the children’s
magazine M u s e further rattled the cattlemen with a
cover feature on vegetarianism––and a cover illustration of
a calf asking, “Please don’t eat me!”
Issued by Carus Publishing, of Chicago, which
also publishes the Cricket, Spider, and Ladybug magazines
for children, M u s e is science-oriented, and is affiliated
with the federally funded Smithsonian Institute. The vegetarianism
feature presented the major arguments both for
and against eating meat, but that wasn’t enough for 15
members of Congress, who demanded and got an apology
from the Smithsonian, and demanded a pro-meat follow-up
from M u s e. The magazine only more-or-less complied,
publishing several letters attacking the vegetarian viewpoint
along with letters defending it.
Carus Publishing told Washington Post r e p o r t e r
Jacqueline Trescott that the M u s e editor responsible for
allegedly attacking meat had been reassigned, but then let
slip to the Farm Animal Reform Movement, a FARM
spokesperson told ANIMAL PEOPLE, that the editor in
question was none other than Carus Publishing owner
Andre Carus himself, who routinely rotates from one of his
publications to another.

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