Hard to change culture: Cats and dogs slaughtered at Chinese dog meat festival despite warnings

Thousands of cats and dogs have been slaughtered at the Yulin Festival despite government promises to end the practice, which has been condemned internationally on grounds of animal cruelty.

TPGP12122113Hundreds of traders gathered in China’s southern Guangxi province on Sunday for the annual feast, where dogs are served with lychees to mark the summer solstice.

Amid the slaughter, animal activists arrived with cash, saving hundreds of dogs and cats from certain death.

Local authorities failed to honour pledges to ban the festival following an online petition signed by half a million people.

Actor Ricky Gervais and singer Leona Lewis have denounced the festival, where animals are kept dozens to a cage before being electrocuted, burned and skinned alive.

On Sunday, campaigners blockaded streets, raided slaughterhouses and bought animals in an attempt to save them.

“Workers were blow-torching the carcasses to make them shiny and ready for shipment to restaurants,” said Peter Li, a campaigner for the Humane Society China.


How about possums? Raccoon meat for sale at L.A. supermarket, store under investigation

An Asian supermarket in Temple City has come under fire for selling dead raccoons after a video circulated on social media showed bodies of the animals in the frozen meat section.

racoonChristina Dow posted the video she filmed Monday at Metro Supermarket in the 4800 block of Temple City Boulevard, showing the frozen raccoons in plastic bags along with packages of meat and fish. Dow pleaded with her Facebook followers to share the video.

According to Dow’s Facebook page, she found seven to eight “freshly slaughtered raccoons” inside the supermarket freezer. She noted the dead raccoons were fully intact and the fur bloody.

“Is this right or what?” she says on the video.

The raccoons were apparently sold for $9.99 per pound. One particular raccoon was sold for roughly $54.

An employee at the supermarket told the Los Angeles Times that health inspectors had hauled out their supply of dead raccoons on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Public Health Department would not confirm whether it removed the dead raccoons.

But it said the department was investigating.

According to the department, a raccoon would be considered a “game animal” under the California Health and Safety Code and could be sold.

But it could be sold only if it’s from an approved source and is not considered an endangered or threatened animal by the Department of Fish & Game.

The supermarket employee, who declined to give his name, said the owner of the supermarket is avoiding media calls.

Along with selling exotic meats, the 12,000-square-foot Chinese supermarket has its own farm, delivering vegetables and fruit daily, according to its website.

Safety of pet food packaging

Having dropped off a urine sample from Jacques (the white one) at the vet yesterday, and getting dinged for $400 while we were away, I’m increasingly sensitive about the food we feed the cats.

doug.cats.jun.14Joe Pryweller, an analyst for The Freedonia Group, an industry market research consultancy (www.freedoniagroup.com) writes in Food Safety Magazine that food packaging can significantly influence the quality and safety of the food product in question by providing a barrier to moisture and other environmental conditions that may result in contamination and/or spoilage.

The U.S. demand for pet food packaging is expected to rise 4.8 percent annually to $2.5 billion by 2018. Growth will be based on the use of higher value, more sophisticated packaging and continued strength in pet food shipments. The proliferation of premium pet food brands will also spur packaging demand growth, as higher value containers will be required to provide superior graphics, puncture resistance to reduce likelihood of contamination and barrier protection for these more expensive, higher-quality products.

While limited design flexibility and the inconvenience of opening cans have been the chief drawbacks of metal pet food containers, this segment is attempting to increase its competitiveness by emphasizing the safety of steel cans and their environmental friendliness due to their recyclability and use of recycled content. A much lower rate of product recalls for pet food exists for food packaged in metal cans than for that packaged in plastic alternatives, due to the tight seal and tamper evidence in cans.

According to a new study, Pet Food Packaging, demand for metal cans in pet food packaging is forecast to rise 2.7 percent annually to $650 million in 2018.

steve.martin.cat.jugglingThis study analyzed the $2 billion U.S. pet food packaging industry. It presents historical demand data for 2003, 2008 and 2013, and forecasts for 2018 and 2023 by application (e.g., dry food, wet food, pet treats, chilled and frozen), animal (e.g., dog food, cat food), type (e.g., bags, metal cans, pouches, folding cartons, plastic bottles and jars, tubs and cups) and material (paperboard, plastic, metal, wovens).

Cans held 29 percent of the pet food packaging market in 2013. The percentage of overall can demand in pet food packaging will continue to decline due to supplantation by other packaging types, including retort pouches, tubs and cups, and chubs. Pouch demand in pet food packaging is forecast to rise 8.3 percent per annum to $540 million in 2018, the fastest pace of growth among pet food packaging types. For small packages of dry food, pouches will continue to supplant bags. For wet food, retort pouches will continue to gain acceptance as an alternative to metal cans, growing in popularity due to peelable lids that are easier to open and allow the consumer to avoid cuts from metal edges and especially in applications where strength and stiffness are not primary factors.

Making a pig’s ear of food safety

I don’t care who does meat inspection, as long as the results are available for public scrutiny, preferably at retail. As we have documented, there are problems with government inspections, audits, and no inspections (see below).

restaurant.inspectionTed Genoways, the author of “The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food,” asks in The New York Times, if, thanks to an experimental inspection program, a meatpacking firm produces as much as two tons a day of pork contaminated by fecal matter, urine, bile, hair, intestinal contents or diseased tissue, should that count as a success?

The agency responsible for enforcing food safety laws has not only approved this new inspection regime but is considering whether to roll it out across the pork-processing industry. Last month, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture said it wished to see if the pilot program “could be applied to additional establishments.”

The issue was not whether microbiological testing was superior to physical inspection, officials said, but whether self-regulation was sufficient and safe. But in 1997, U.S.D.A. executives approved testing in five pork-processing plants.

By the time the pilot program was fully implemented, in 2004, Hormel Foods Corporation, a Fortune 500 company with headquarters in Austin, Minn., had succeeded in getting its two major slaughter operations included, and had acquired a third. The new inspection system allowed Hormel to increase the speed of its cut lines, just before demand for cheap pork products like Spam soared during the recession. My reporting revealed that Hormel went from processing about 7,000 hogs per shift to as many as 11,000.

But some of Hormel’s own quality-assurance auditors began to raise concerns. Under normal U.S.D.A. guidelines, inspectors manually check the glands in the head of every hog, palpate the lymph nodes to check for tuberculosis nodules, feel the intestines for parasites and the kidneys for signs of inflammation or hidden masses. A former process-control auditor from the Austin plant told me that, by 2006, the line was running so fast that he doubted the lone U.S.D.A. inspector could do more than visual checks.

Chicago_meat_inspection_swift_co_1906Then, last year, the U.S.D.A. inspector general reported on the hazard analysis project. The findings were damning. Enforcement of food safety protocols was so lacking at the five plants participating that between 2008 and 2011, three of the five were among the 10 worst violators nationwide (of 616 pork processors).

Philip Derfler, deputy administrator of the inspection service, promised a further investigation. That report was finally posted last month. Remarkably, it painted the new inspection program as a success — though much of its data suggested otherwise. From 2006 to 2010, for example, fecal contamination was consistently higher than in standard plants, often much higher.

In 2011, however, the program changed from allowing meat inspectors to decide which carcasses to inspect to a computerized system that set the sampling schedule and recorded results electronically. The system failed repeatedly that year, rendering all data unusable. Inspectors also reported failures in 2012 and 2013 that sent at least 100 million pounds of uninspected meat to market.

Despite this, in 2013, the rate of contamination recorded by the new computer system appeared low enough for the inspection service to declare victory. The new report said the number of serious violations was “exceedingly small.”

In fact, over the course of the study, contaminated carcasses were found in the experimental plants at a rate of about five to seven animals per 10,000 processed, with little variation over time. That may sound low, but given the volume of production and the weight of market hogs, it means that an operation the size of Hormel’s would “approve” about 4,000 pounds of contaminated pork a day.

The American public must be assured that high-volume production — and profits — have not been put before food safety.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety


Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman



Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency.

Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework.

There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time.

This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

The meat beat

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes:

Feeding a raw diet to your pet? And through a dog food co-op? This might sound like an awesome idea, but it is not the safest plan.

Sheila Pell at Modern Farmer writes,

Offer a dog a piece of kibble in one hand and a morsel of meat in the other. It’s that obvious choice that moves many pet parents to join a dog food co-op, and share the task of procuring fresh meats, fruits and vegetables to be shared among their pet’s food bowls. Not everyone can find one nearby, but more are cropping up all the time.IMG_5238-225x300

While feeding raw food might be preferable to the dog, taste-wise, a pet doesn’t know which foods might be contaminated with SalmonellaE. coli or other pathogens.  Domesticated animals rely on humans to make the best choices possible for their meals.

Yet, that might not always happen.

Proponents also argue that dogs evolved to eat primarily raw foods, mainly meat and bones, not starchy overcooked grains. The benefits of approximating that diet, many say, include healthier skin and coats, cleaner teeth, more energy and less poop.

Pell notes that there are dissidents,

Many veterinarians, and the FDA, discourage raw feeding due to threats from bacteria. Studies in veterinary journals have documented the risks. Some long-time raw feeders point out that bacteria (salmonella, for one) is also a problem in commercial pet food. Other risks are feeding an unbalanced diet and the potential for whole bones to cause choking, break teeth or puncture an organ.

My dog would regularly eat poop for dinner if it were up to her. Commercial dry food has had contamination issues the risk is increased when the meal is raw. Veterinarians have suggested that raw chicken can have too much phosphorous or calcium—and consuming bones, among other items, can easily get stuck in an animal’s esophagus and lead to other health issues (Thompson et al., 2012). But it’s safety that got the pet owners interested in this diet in the first place.

But pet food recalls and the local/organic food trend got pet owners interested in providing their dogs with a higher quality feed. By shortening the farm-to-bowl chain, many owners feel they can rule out many of the toxic traces of industrial food production.

Just shortening the supply chain is not the mythical answer to lessening a supposed toxic industrial food system. A nearby processor of raw food can be just as risky as a far-away processor of conventional kibble. And while dog food co-ops might use best practices, it is not a guarantee that every purveyor does as such.

I look up product contents, company histories, and prevalence of recalls, as well as how any recall was handled, before feeding my dog a new brand of food. Before joining a cooperative, I would research its processing practices, transport procedures, and operating procedures –for the health of my dog and me, since I can get sick from contaminated dog food: dry, wet, or raw.

Strengthening vet oversight of antimicrobial use in food animals: reducing antibiotics in meat — Part II

Ron Doering, former president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and current counsel in the Ottawa offices of Gowlings (Ronald.doering@gowlings.com), reports with part II of his take on antimicrobiasl in food animal production:

While the medical commu­nity recognizes that the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in hu­mans is a potential disaster for humanity and that it is the overuse of antimicrobi­als in human medicine that is the largest contributor, there is a broad consensus that the use of antibiotics in animals contributes to the problem, though the scale is still unclear. This uncertainty is due mainly to a failure to adequately control and monitor the use. Health Canada (HC) lacks the authority to control and monitor use because the practice of veterinary medicine falls under provincial juris­diction. Recognizing that almost all practical efforts to reduce the level of antibiotics in meat depend on the more active participation of veterinarians, HC announced recently that it wanted “to develop options to strengthen the veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in food animals.”

44755363What can veterinarians and their provincial regulatory licensing bodies do now to reduce the threat of AMR? Here are four suggestions:

1. Enhance awareness among members .

While the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) has developed vol­untary Prudent Use Guide­lines, I’m told that many vets are hardly aware of the issue and may not even know of the Guidelines. Concerned enough about this, Ontario’s regulatory body, the Col­lege of Veterinarians of Ontario, just an­nounced that it was launching a project to study the use of antibiotics among food animal veterinarians and to determine if they use the CVMA’s Guidelines in daily practice. Quebec requires a manda­tory day-long AMR program and a test. All provinces should follow Quebec and develop mandatory continuing education programs on antimicrobial stewardship.

2. Fill the regulatory gaps.

As long as vets continue to prescribe off label use and the use of Active Pharma­ceutical Ingredients (APIs) in production medicine, it’s impossible to know the level of antibiotic use. Own Use Importation (OUI) by animal owners is another avenue for which use information is un­available. As one recent report stressed: “The gap in reliable usage data makes it difficult to state with confidence which antimicrobials are used, in what quantities, and for what purposes.” The recent critical assessment by a group of experts, titled “Stewardship of antimicrobial drugs in animals in Canada: How are we doing in 2013?” (Canadian Veterinary Journal, March 2014), highlighted the absolute importance of improving Canada’s monitoring of antimicrobial usage.

3. Conflict of interest issue.

This issue has been flagged by several reports going back to the landmark McEwen Report of 2002. Veterinarians obtain income from the profitable sale of antimicrobials. Decoupling veterinary prescribing from dispensing raises several issues because the current veterinary prac­tice business model is based on an income stream from antimicro­bial sales. Veterinarians should lead a dialogue on this important issue that clearly needs closer examination.

ab.res.prudent.may.144. Antibiotics for disease prevention.

The real issue is not the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or the treating of disease, but whether they should continue to be used for disease prevention. While some antibiotics of very high importance to human health should only be used to treat infection, there are several arguments that some of high or medium importance to human health (what HC calls Category ll and lll, for example tetracyclines) should still, with closer veterinarian oversight, be used for disease prevention. Because major retailers, processors and consumers increasingly demand meat with “raised without antibiotic” claims, the marketplace is forcing changes in practice. But we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that while there are risks to using antimicrobials in animal production, there are also risks with non-use.

Two-thirds of animal diseases are zoo­notic, meaning the disease is transferable to humans. For this and other reasons, I have been a long-time proponent of strengthening the connections between human and animal medicine — the concept known as One Health. In this context, AMR represents an historic opportunity for vets to step up and provide greater leadership. 

14 now sick with E. coli from UK petting zoo

Another child has been admitted to hospital following an E. coli outbreak in East Lancashire.

The total number of confirmed cases has now risen to 14, with 12 children and two adults affected after visiting Huntley’s Country Store in Samlesbury between March 29 and April 24.

petting zoo 1This comes as the National Farmer’s Union has reassured people that petting farms are safe as long as hygiene rules are followed and that they should continue to go despite the E. coli outbreak.

Not quite.

There have been outbreaks where pathogens have been aerosolized and that handwashing was not a significant control factor.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Petting-Zoo-Outbreaks-Table-4-8-14.xlsx.

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell

Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions


Zoonoses and Public Health

Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. ‘It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the USA caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.

Real Housewives of New York dogs drink too

In the latest episode of the Real Housewives of New York, Ramona is having a calendar shoot with her dog when Sonja shows up for a chat with her pup. The four are seated on an elegant couch when the guest doggy gets thirsty. Sonja, without missing a beat, offers her pooch her water glass and tells him kindly it is too early for champagne.

RHONY-dog RHONY-Ramona RHONY-Sonja

Ramona, polite but taken aback says, “I have water right in the kitchen. You know, I hope you’re not going to drink from that after.”

Sonja replies distracted, “I miss Milou so much but this dog is just…” and sighs.

And then Sonja takes a drink from the same glass.

Perhaps she learned her etiquette from Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, Lisa.

17 sick with E. coli from petting area at Brisbane fair; handwashing or sanitizers never enough

With 17 sick from shiga-toxin producing E. coli linked to the animal area at the Queensland state fair, or Ekka, neighboring Gold Coast says they’re boosting hygiene for their fair that starts Friday.

royal.petting.zooBut it probably isn’t enough.

Queensland Health today confirmed that eight people have tested positive to STEC and another nine have reported symptoms.

Gold Coast Show marketing manager Leisa Martin says the usual precautions have been increased.

“This year in keeping with the guidelines from Queensland Health we have actually put in more of those stations than Queensland Health has advised in an effort to ensure the same unfortunate occurrence does not happen at our show,” she said.

“So of course after you have been near the animals use one of the hand sanitiser stations that are nearby.”

The U.K. and many scientists say hand sanitizers are sorta useless in the presence of an organic matter; handwashing with soap and vigorously running water, followed by drying with paper towel is recommended procedure.

But in several previous petting zoo outbreaks, handwashing was not a factor: bacterial can be present on many surfaces or even aerosolized.

Maybe those guidelines should be updated.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/petting-zoos-outbreaks.

130 sick, 12 outbreaks; alert over sickness at UK petting farms

Public Health England says, so far this year, there have been 12 disease outbreaks linked to petting farms across England, affecting 130 people.

The advice is to wash your hands with soap and water – antibacterial gels ekka.petting.zooand wipes will not always work.

Dr Bob Adak, head of gastrointestinal diseases at Public Health England, said: “These outbreaks of illness serve as a reminder for anyone visiting a petting farm of the need to wash their hands thoroughly using soap and water after they have handled animals or been in their surroundings – particularly before eating.

“Although we can avoid obvious dirt there will be millions of invisible bacteria spread all around the farm which can get onto our hands.

“By being aware and by doing these simple things we can help to avoid illness and enjoy a fun day out.”

Anyone with kids knows these suggestions are not simple.

We have additional suggestions, but they’re under peer review at the royal.petting.zoomoment.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/petting-zoos-outbreaks.

A list of risk factors at petting zoos and animal contact events at fairs can be found in: Erdozain G, Kukanich K, Chapman B, Powell D. 2012. Observation of public health risk behaviours, risk communication and hand hygiene at Kansas and Missouri petting zoos – 2010-2011. Zoonoses Public Health. 2012 Jul 30. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2012.01531.x. [Epub ahead of print]