FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 25, 2008
Huge beef recall raises issues of food safety and animal care
Some people avoid meat by following what's called a vegetarian diet, which features vegetables, nuts, grains and perhaps dairy items. Ask students to look for vegetarian recipes, restaurants or other information in the paper’s lifestyle pages, dining guide and ads.
Food safety reports are part of health coverage that helps readers make decisions that could affect their well-being. Challenge the class to spot other articles and tips about healthful living.
Health and safety information also is delivered in low-key ways, such as by showing helmeted skateboarders and buckled-up drivers. See if pupils can find news, advertising or even cartoon images that reinforce good behavior or illustrate risky activity, such as smoking.
In the largest American beef recall ever, the federal government recently ordered a California company to pull back 143 million pounds of frozen meat because health regulations were violated. More than one-third of that beef - 37 million pounds - went to school cafeterias nationwide for burgers, Sloppy Joe's and other meals. No illnesses have been reported, and officials see only a small health risk.
The processing plant in Chino, Calif., halted operations after an undercover video indicated it illegally slaughtered cows so injured, weak or sick that they could barely stand - or were unable to stand at all. A Humane Society operative secretly filmed workers last fall using forklifts, chains and hoses to force fallen cattle to slaughter. Two fired employees face state animal cruelty charges and a federal investigation continues. After about 150 school districts pledged not to buy meat from that company again, the firm's general manager said it's likely to shut permanently.
Federal officials acted because falling-down cows have the same symptoms caused by mad cow disease and other conditions posing human health threats. The Humane Society released its cattle-abuse video as part of a campaign to improve animal welfare regulations for the food industry.
Industry says: "We support U.S. Department of Agriculture actions to enforce the laws that ensure our cattle are handled with care and that our beef is produced safely." -- James O. Reagan, Chairman of Beef Industry Food Safety Council
Congressman says: "They know when the [federal] inspectors are coming to the plant so they can prepare for those inspections and delay the inspectors." - Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.
Professor says: "To see those images and think this is how our lunch is getting produced -- if not every day, then sometimes -- is very disturbing. It's one of those episodes that peels back the curtain on how our food is prepared." - Michael Pollan, University of California-Berkeley author of two books on the food industry
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