news feature
May 18, 2012

 

 

 

The Best, Most Disgusting Reporting on Food Safety
by Blair Hickman l ProPublica

The recent brouhaha over pink slime (and other lovely mass meat production processes) is only the beginning. Here’s our roundup of some standout reporting about the food on your plate.

This is a multifaceted, perennial topic. If you think we missed any, we’re happy to hear suggestions. Please email a link to MuckReads@propublica.org or tweet it with the hashtag #muckreads.


(photo courtesy of the USDA)

Safety of Beef Processing Method Is Questioned, The New York Times, December 2009
A look at the development of Beef Product Inc.’s “novel” method of meat production that later became known as the infamous "pink slime." Reporter Michael Moss won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigations into contaminated beef.

Our Dwindling Food Variety, National Geographic, July 2011
Our dwindling food variety, in a stride-stopping infographic. Contributed by @kleinmatic

What the USDA Doesn't Want You to Know About Antibiotics and Factory Farms, Mother Jones, July 2011
The U.S. Department of Agriculture appears to have repeatedly removed a report by a USDA-contracted researcher that summarized recent academic work, from “reputed, scientific, peer-reviewed, and scholarly journals," on possible links between antibiotic-resistant infections and factory farm animals. Mother Jones got a permanent PDF of the researcher’s report, dubbing it the “document the USDA doesn’t want you to see.”

Asian Honey, Banned in Europe, Is Flooding U.S. Grocery Shelves, Food Safety News, August 2011
Some of the biggest U.S. honey packers knowingly bought honey of questionable quality so they could sell it on the cheap. Much of it was likely smuggled from China (honey the European Union has banned) and may have been laced with lead and illegal animal antibiotics — if it was really honey at all.

America's Dangerous Food-Safety System, The Daily Beast/ Newsweek, September 2011 A shortage of inspectors in the U.S. food-safety system exposes Americans to the risk of illness and death.

Nation's Food Anti-terror Plans Costly, Unwieldy, Associated Press, September 2011 An AP investigation into the United States' $3.4 billion food counter-terrorism program found that progress had been slowed by a complex web of bureaucracy. Contributed by @joannalin

On The Menu, But Not On Your Plate, Boston Globe, October 2011 A Globe-organized DNA test revealed scores of mislabeled fish in Massachusetts restaurants, grocery stores and seafood markets. Often, “local” fish was actually hauled from thousands of miles away, and while some chefs and store owners seemed to have no clue, others admitted to knowingly selling mislabeled food to boost profits. Experts said it reflects a nationwide trend that causes diners to unwittingly overpay, may make people sick and results in overfishing.

Dispute Over Drug in Feed Limiting U.S. Meat Exports, MSNBC, January 2012
The controversial drug ractopamine has sickened or killed more pigs than any other livestock drug on the market, leading the EU and China, which together produce and consume about 70 percent of the world’s pork, to refuse meat imports raised on the additive. The U.S. pork industry wants to change their minds.

How Washington Went Soft on Child Obesity, Reuters, April 2012
The food and beverage industries have more than doubled their spending on lobbying in Washington in the last three years. And now Congress has declared pizza a vegetable.

A History of FDA Inaction on Animal Antibiotics, ProPublica, April 2012
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Food and Drug Administration’s actions, or lack thereof, to keep antibiotics out of your food.

As Beef Cattle Become Behemoths, Who Are Animal Scientists Serving? The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2012
A growing number of animal scientists employed by public universities are accepting payouts from pharmaceutical companies. They’re often hired to persuade farmers to use antibiotics that fatten up cattle but haven’t necessarily been proven safe. Some have been banned in the E.U. and China.

Bonus points: In 1968, Nathan Kotz of the Des Moines Register and Minneapolis Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on unsanitary conditions in meat packing plants, which, according to the Pulitzer site, helped ensure passage of the Federal Wholesome Meat Act of 1967. Anybody have an online copy?