Shane Commentary

 

Recrimination over Fipronil Debacle

Aug 18, 2017

    

Following revelations that authorities in Belgium knew of Fipronil contamination of eggs in early June but only notified the EU in late July, beleaguered officials are now blaming the Netherlands.  The company allegedly responsible for supplying the insecticide cocktail containing Fipronil applied to as many as 200 farms was based in the Netherlands.  Belgium claims that Holland was tardy in their investigation delaying critical information until the end of July.

  

The Minister of Agriculture for Belgium Denis Ducarne addressing a Parliamentary investigation noted “One month without having any information from the Dutch Agency” --presumably the Dutch Food Authority.  Ducarne maintains the Dutch had been aware of Fipronil in eggs since November 2016 without any declaration.

It is significant that no official reports or media articles have actually quoted levels of Fipronil in eggs.  This data would be of interest to actually assess the risk to consumers. Actual assay results will be necessary to reconcile conflicting statements of low-risk made by Dutch, Belgian and U.K. officials in contrast to a more pessimistic interpretation by Germany.

It is hoped that investigations will soon be concluded which will reveal the duration of contamination, the levels in eggs from affected farms and the concentration of residual Fipronil in tissue from culled flocks.  Results from epidemiologic studies involving temporal and spatial considerations included in a comprehensive report should be forthcoming since there are lessons to be learned from this incident which is eerily reminiscent of the dioxin contamination in Germany and the Benelux Nations in 2011.

Agriculture Minister Dennis Ducarne of Belgium
reviewing aspects of the fipronil scandal with the media

   
 

Belgium Admits to Delay in Reporting Fipronil Contamination of Eggs

Aug 11, 2017

    

Authorities in Belgium have now admitted that they were aware of fipronil contamination in eggs imported from Holland in June, over a month before an official declaration. Authorities in Germany are concerned over the delayed response which was attributed by the Belgians to an ongoing legal investigation.

The German Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt stated in a TV interview on August 8th that the entire event was “criminal” referring to the apparent widescale use of an unauthorized insecticide.

  

Field investigations have revealed that as many as 200 farms may have been contaminated by spraying an insecticide containing unapproved fipronil in the environment of chickens. The motivation was in all probability to control Dermanyssus spp. (red mites) which are nocturnal blood feeders living within houses and depressing the productivity of flocks.

It is evident that flocks exposed to the insecticide cocktail containing fipronil will have to be culled based on the persistence of the phenylpyrazole compound.

It now has emerged that a consignment of 60 cases of eggs was sent to the U.K. from implicated farms. Approximately 25 percent of eggs consumed in this nation are imported amounting to five million cases annually.

Supermarkets in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have removed eggs from shelves based on trace-back investigations. In the EU each egg is jet-printed with a code (of variable legibility) indicating country of origin, farm, housing system and date produced. As a precaution, Aldi, a major European supermarket chain, has removed all eggs until it can be restocked with product known to be free of contamination.

Confusion and concern among consumers invariably leads to a reduction in sales following an incident such as pesticide contamination or salmonellosis. See the January 14th 2012 posting on EGG-CITE concerning contamination of pork and eggs with dioxins in Germany and neighboring nations which involved 5,000 farms and reduced sales by 25 percent for weeks. Fortunately authorities in Belgium, Holland and the U.K. have advised that there is no health danger from consuming eggs although German regulators have issued precautionary statements concerning contamination with fipronil.

   
 

National Pork Producers Face Proposition #2 Restrictions

Aug 4, 2017

    

It is enigmatic that the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) which opposed to the “Egg Bill” which would have created a common standard for the housing of hens is now fighting to preserve gestation crates as a rearguard action.

Opposition by the NPPC and other elements in their industry led in large measure to the UEP abandoning the initiative in January 2014. At the time pork producers were concerned that a Federal standard for hens would represent a “slippery slope” and extend to pork.

  

Neil Dierks, CEO of the NPPC delivered testimony to a Congressional Committee advocating a Federal prohibition on any state imposing regulatory burdens on businesses outside that state. A situation which has impacted the egg production industry since the implementation of California AB 1437.

Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has introduced H.R. 2887 – The No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017.

Nine states have banned gestation crates and California and Massachusetts enacted ballot initiatives to impose restrictions on introduction of eggs, pork and veal from states which do not conform to individual state regulations.

When California adopted Proposition #2 in 2008, the state soon enacted AB1437 to protect the domestic industry.  The law imposed space requirements for flocks producing eggs shipped to California after January 1, 2015 requiring conformity to CADFA Regulation 1350 (d).

Subsequent litigation introduced by a consortium of Attorneys General of Midwest states were rejected by a Federal District court and the regulations have been in effect for 31 months.

With respect to the issue of gestation crates, the train has long since left the station.  Consumers, welfare organizations and major customers have all declared their rejection of the system and major pork producers including Tyson Foods and Smithfield have either phased out or are in the processing of converting to group housing of sows.

California law AB 1437 has not yet been considered by a Federal Appeals court to determine constitutionality with specific reference to the Commerce Clause which assigns to Congress the right to regulate interstate trade.  The initial lawsuit and subsequent appeal concerning AB 1437 was rejected on the grounds that the Attorneys General had no standing and were in fact representing egg farmers in their respective states and could not demonstrate any specific damage from the California statute to the citizenry of Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Alabama.

If H.R. 2887 is passed and withstands challenge, AB 1437 will be ultra vires. The field will then open up for production of eggs destined to California from hens housed at 67 inches2 to the detriment of producers in that state.

In retrospect it may have been strategically beneficial for the pork producers to have supported our egg industry in 2013.  Their opposition at the time was parochial and self-centered.  The reality is that the segments of the pork industry still using gestation crates will either have to adapt to an alternative system or cease production given consumer and customer demands.

   
 

Feed Ingredient Prices

Jul 28, 2017

    

Stable and relatively low feed ingredient prices over the past two years in the U.S. have in large measure softened the blow of prolonged depressed prices for eggs. This may change. The Wall Street Journal of July 14 reviewed a profound alteration in agricultural policy in China, home to twenty percent of the world’s population but with only ten percent of arable area. With large trade surpluses, China recognizes that it will be able to purchase ingredients at world market prices.

  

 For many decades, the Government of the PRC effectively encouraged relatively inefficient production of corn, wheat, sugar, soybeans and some other commodities by establishing support prices with central planning.  The Nation stockpiled ingredients in bountiful years and imported ingredients to supplement requirements.  Past history involving famine and mass starvation motivated extensive storage to compensate for possible crop failure. In 2014, the Government decided to phase out subsidies which resulted in declines in production of the affected crops.

 Following the end of subsidies for soybeans in 2014, production in China dropped 1.5 percent over two years as farmers moved to corn which was still subject to a floor price. The floor price for corn will be removed for the current season with an anticipated 2.3 percent reduction in output in 2018.

Over the past three years, imports of soybeans have increased by thirty percent with an indirect inflationary effect on world price, benefitting the major producers including the U.S., Brazil, Argentina and the Ukraine.

The implication for increased imports into China will benefit row-crop producers in the U.S. and will enhance the earnings of the major international grain traders and shippers.  Livestock producers will have to endure increases in domestic price which could otherwise be absorbed through high prices for eggs. Given the prevailing market, escalation in feed cost would adversely impact margins. 

The situation could be exacerbated if a drought reduced U.S. yields as in 2014. The prospect of reduced output will inevitably occur in the future but will be unlikely in the 2017-2018 season. The USDA projects a 14.3 billion bushel corn crop and a 4.2 billion bushel soybean harvest.

   
 

Dutch Study Discloses Differences Attributed to Beak Treatment

Jul 21, 2017

    

EGG-CITE is indebted to Dr. Eric Gingerich who circulated a report entitled “Debeaking on laying hen performance”. Our U.S. industry abandoned the term “debeaking” over two decades ago.

We distinguish between beak treatment which involves infared application to the tip of the beak at a hatchery using a Nova-Tech installation or beak trimming which is effected by a hot blade instrument at 7 to 10 days after hatch.

  

 The study was conducted at the Schothorst Feed Research Center operated cooperatively by seven Dutch feed suppliers. The objective was to determine the effect of “debeaking” on performance parameters. The major defect in the report is that the author Dr. Laura Star did not specify the method of beak modification applied..  Given the absence of clarification, it is not possible to ascribe apparent diffences observed to a specific procedure. 

The motivtion for the study relates to the fact that in Holland, all forms of beak treatment or trimming will be banned after 2018 following the practice in Germany effective 2017.

The study was conducted in 36 experimental aviary pens holding 330 white-feathered pullets placed at 17 weeks of age.

The major differences observed through 67 weeks were:-

  • Feed intake was higher in the treatments with entire beaks.  The deviation between the two treatments commenced at 37 weeks of age and the difference in feed intake from 120 grams to 140 grams per hen per day (26.4 to 30.8 lbs per100 hens per day) persisted until depletion at 67 weeks.  Feed intake in the treatment subjected to some form of beak treatment remained essentially constant at 120 grams per hen per day consistent with breed standard. 
  • Egg mass was higher for the treatment with entire beaks averaging 0.8 percent greater than the treated group.  Feed conversion (presumably mass of feed consumed divided by mass of eggs produced) diverged from 27 weeks of age onwards with a numerically higher feed conversion ratio in the treatment with entire beaks.  At 67 weeks of age, feed conversion approached 2.40 for the non-beak treated hens compared to 2.05 for the hens subjected to some form of beak treatment.  This group conformed to breed standard. 
  • Mortality was higher in the non-beak treated hens (4.9 percent) compared to hens subjected to some form of beak treatment which showed a 3 percent mortality from 17 to 68 weeks of age.  The author noted that mortality was not attributed to cannibalism.
  • A major difference between the two treatments related to feather score with a value of zero assigned to unaffected plumage up to a value of 4 in hens without feather cover.  At 64 weeks of age feather score in the non-debeaked hens was 3.2 compared to 2.0 for the hens subjected to some form of beak treatment. 
  • The inferior feed conversion ratio was attributed to increased feed intake which was influenced by lack of feather cover.  There was no explanation of why hens with entire beaks yielded higher feather-damage scores. 
  • The report on the study did not specify total eggs produced nor was an economic evaluation provided.

Results of the study will probably be used to justify a delay in implementing the proposed ban on beak treatment in Holland as in the U.K. This was the most probable objective of the exercise although data whether valid or otherwise will not influence legislators in the Dutch Parliament who in general are unsympathetic to intensive livestock production and especially eggs. This is an unfortunate result of urbanization of voters who are indifferent to the importance of Holland as a producer and exporter of table eggs, egg liquids, day-old chicks and breeding stock.

   
 

Long-Term Project on Sex-Determination in Chickens

Jul 14, 2017

    

Funding has been awarded to the Royal School of Veterinary Science at the University of Edinburgh to study the biology of sex-determination in chickens.

The three-year project will evaluate the effect of DNRT1 in males and FOXL2 in females since these genes determine gender and development of gonads.

It is intended to use genetic manipulation involving deletion of genes on chicken germ cells to determine the relative importance of gene expression in comparison to wild-type male and female lines.

  

The complexity of the study and the proposed duration of research illustrates the need for additional knowledge of mechanisms of gender determination in poultry species. The research grant illustrates the need for a thorough knowledge of the basic mechanisms of gender determination before progressing to any form of gender manipulation. 

It was almost a year ago that a fallacious claim was made for subjecting new-laid fertile eggs to specific frequencies of light to alter gender.  There is absolutely no substantiation in the form of published papers or credible data to support the proposal. A posting on EGG-CITE challenging the claimant to subject 1,000 eggs to the system and then demonstrate acceptable egg production in pullets hatched from the treated eggs was not taken up, despite bluster, intimidation and attempts at coercion.

Research is still underway to develop a practical and financially acceptable method of gender determination in fertile eggs before the fourth day of incubation.  To date there have been promising leads using sophisticated spectroscopy but no commercial prototypes have been offered for evaluation.

Dr. Michael McGrew a leader of the research team at the University of Edinburgh noted, “A greater understanding of gonadagenesis and germ cell development in birds may also be of benefit to conservation programs.  This knowledge may also lead to the development of improved in ovo sexing tests and could have a significant consequence for commercial poultry breeding and meat production.” EGG-CITE endorses this sentiment and supports basic research to ascertain mechanisms of gender determination.

   
 

National Brands to Suffer Indirectly from Amazon Acquisition

Jul 7, 2017

    

Although there has been an evident trend towards store brands over the past decade, one of the fallouts from the proposed acquisition of Whole Foods Market by Amazon will be an acceleration in the displacement of national brands.

This was evident in the offerings by Kroger, Target and Safeway and more recently Aldi and now Lidl.

  

During the past quarter, Mondelez reported a 2.0 percent decline in comparable sales, Kraft-Heinz, 3.5 percent and Kellogg, 3.0 percent.  It is generally accepted that diversified companies including PepsiCo and Mondelez have sufficient product diversity and brand loyalty to withstand market pressures. 

Campbell Soup Company and ConAgra Brands are vulnerable as their range of products can be substituted by alternative store brands.

Within the egg industry, the leading nationally-distributed brand will come under increasing pressure as nutritionally-enriched store brands offer equivalent or even superior attributes at a lower cost since there are no marketing expenditures.

There are limits as to promotion on mainstream and social media.  Kroger, Safeway and Target will progressively use shelf space to promote their house brands placing independent and national brands at a disadvantage.

   
 

Comment on Editorial Promoting Economic Study

Jul 7, 2017

    

The June 9th editorial advocating a comprehensive study on the effect of pricing following the profound changes in the supply of shell eggs and products during and subsequent to the 2015 HPAI epornitic raised the question of whether the Economic Research Service of the USDA would be adequately funded in the 2017/8 budget to carry out current and new activities. 

 

Press reports have suggested that major reductions in funding and reduced staffing would be a feature of the USDA budget.

Comments received from industry and public sector sources recognize the contribution made by the Markets and Trade Economic Division of the USDA-ERS in providing timely statistics and data used to develop production and marketing programs.

Those responsible for allocating budgets and resources are encouraged to continue full funding for the ERS since their deliverables are critical to all sectors of the poultry and livestock industries.

   
 

What Goes on at Hampton Creek?

Jun 23, 2017

    

A Monday, June 5th report in the U.S. edition of The Guardian commented on executive changes at Hampton Creek.  Previously EGG-CITE has reported on the departure of a number of senior executives obviously sapping the company of talent during the early stages of its development.

 

Josh Tetrick co-founder of the company, originally styled as Beyond Eggs in 2011, together with Josh Balk of the Humane Society of the United States, announced that three executives including the chief technology officer, the vice president of research and development and the vice president of business development had been dismissed. 

At issue are the attempts of one of the parties to contact a member of the Board to arrange a meeting.  In the article citing the opinions of Tetrick, a claim is made that the trio were attempting to “engage in a coup meant to take control from its co-founder and hand it to investors.”

The article is somewhat lacking in journalistic probity in that none of the three ex-executives were interviewed and that Tetrick in his inimitable way was allowed to implant his spin on the situation.

Tech and food start-ups and other fledging companies do not display the degree of executive turnover and frequency of adverse publicity as Hampton Creek which should sound a note of caution to institutional and private shareholders.

To date the company has only marketed an egg-free mayonnaise.  The commercial acceptability of this product was questioned when it was revealed that the company had employed sham customers to buy back product from supermarket shelves creating the impression of consumer demand.

Readers may review past postings relating to Hampton Creek by entering the company name in the SEARCH block.

   
 

Application of Radio Frequency Technology to Pasteurize Eggs

Jun 16, 2017

   

The Agricultural Research Service recently issued a press release on the application of radio frequency technology adapted by Dr. David Geveke to pasteurize eggs.  Dr. Geveke is a chemical engineer located at the Agriculture Research Service Food Safety and Intervention Technologies Research Unit in Wyndmoor, PA.

The latest press release is basically similar to a previous release in 2013.

EGG-CITE posted two commentaries in 2013 and 2014 which are reproduced below:-

  

 

In the intervening years since 2013, RF pasteurization technology may have been refined but the reality is that it is a solution looking for a problem.  The market for pasteurized eggs is extremely small, representing less than one percent of shell eggs consumed.  This market is satisfied by an immersion process developed by L. John Davidson in the 1990s.

After a series of bankruptcies and restructuring of the Pasteurized Egg Corporation, the successor, National Pasteurized Eggs was formed in 2011 to market the concept. In 2016 the Company, including patents and the brand were acquired by Michael Foods.

The comment in the press release that this technology could reduce “egg-borne Salmonella illness (SE) by up to 85 percent, or more than 110,000 cases a year is arrant nonsense.  There has not been a documented case of SE acquired from eggs produced by commercial flocks operating under the FDA Salmonella Prevention Rule, a State EQAP, the UEP Five-Star Safety program or their combination since the DeCosters’ Wright County, IA outbreak in 2010. This episode represented a complete aberration as evidence suggested that the DeCosters operated their farms and packing plants contrary to industry standards, resulting in guilty pleas by the Defendants.

    

USDA and Princeton Develop RF Pasteurization for Shell Eggs -- Sep 3, 2013

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-ARS have developed a radio frequency (RF) pasteurization process for shell eggs.  The prototype is capable of inactivating potential Salmonella infection in eggs by heating. 

  

It is claimed that the process will not affect the physical appearance or properties of the albumen.  This is a deficiency with the current batch hot water immersion pasteurization process used commercially.

While pasteurization of shell eggs is appropriate for consumers with health problems including immunosuppression, there does not appear to be a great demand for pasteurized shell eggs this is evidenced by the fact that less than 1% of all shell eggs are subjected to heat pasteurization.  This new technology, even if effective and financially feasible, will have a limited market, probably restricted to specific food service applications.  The bulk of egg liquid used in food manufacturing processes is subjected to conventional plate pasteurization in high-capacity plants.

Although the small prototype has proven effective under laboratory conditions and is the basis of a patent application, scaling up the device to commercial level will obviously be a challenge. It will take many years to bring to market, if ever. A requirement for commercialization would be that the total of both fixed and variable components of cost to process eggs should be below 10 cents per dozen and process rates of 200 cph for each installation should be attainable.

The development of in-shell pasteurization should be viewed against declining demand for this technology since the prevalence rate of SE is extremely low. It is highly likely that within 2 years SE will be eradicated from the commercial egg industry in the U.S.  It is noted that only 0.25% of flocks in the U.K yield either Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium.  The prevalence rate of SE in the U.S. is low and declining given recent figures on SE positive environmental samples obtained from farms undergoing comprehensive FDA inspections. The complementary goals of eradication in flocks and elimination of egg-borne SE in consumers is achievable given the current application of diligent biosecurity, sourcing chicks from NPIP-certified hatcheries, vaccination and maintaining a cold chain from production to point of sale.

Promoting pasteurization of shell eggs on the presumption of a high egg-borne incidence rate in U.S. consumers of product produced in accordance with the FDA Egg Safety Rule is disingenuous. To be charitable statements in support of this project reflect wishful thinking on the part of scientists developing complicated solutions to non-existent problems.

   
 

Disease Impact of Backyard Chickens Becoming Apparent

Jun 9, 2017

    

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating eight multi-state outbreaks of Salmonellosis attributed to contact with newly acquired chicks or backyard chickens.

From January through May 2017, 372 cases have been reported from 47 states. There have been 71 hospitalizations with one third of the cases in children younger than five years.

  

Salmonella serovars associated with outbreaks include:  Hadar, Indiana, Infantis, Mbandaka and Typhimurium, indicating numerous sources of infection.

It is significant that 83 percent of 228 patients interviewed reported contact with live poultry during the week before onset of illness.

Previously EGG-CITE has reported on dissemination on various serotypes of Salmonella emanating from the inappropriately named Mount Healthy Hatchery in Ohio.

In 1975 following ongoing outbreaks of Salmonellosis in children acquired from pet turtles, Dr. Eugene Gangarosa, a prominent epidemiologist, declared turtles as “inappropriate pets for children.” leading to an FDA ban on interstate transport. The backyard chicken movement so favored by the Birkenstock set has apparently replaced the turtles of their youth 40 years later with chicks and ducklings. Equally inappropriate pets.

   
 

OIE Publishes Global Animal Welfare Strategy

Jun 2, 2017

    

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has published the first Global Strategy for Animal Welfare approved by the 4th OIE global conference in December 2016.

The policy document is encapsulated in the statement “a World where the welfare of animals is respected, promoted and advanced in ways that complement the pursuit of animal health, human well-being, socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability.”

  

The OIE will base welfare on four principles:-

  • Development of animal welfare standards based on contributions from international experts and relevant scientific research.
  • Education, training and guidance within member countries.
  • Communication among governments, organizations and the public to increase awareness of animal welfare.
  • Implementation of animal welfare standards and policies in member nations.

The OIE current animal welfare standards are included in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code – Section 7.

Standardizing animal welfare standards will expedite international trade. It is important that standards should be based on scientific realities. This will facilitate the process of harmonization and prevent undue influence by welfare activists and those opposed to intensive production of livestock and consumption of meat. It is also a matter of concern that importers may through a biased interpretation of standards provide protection for domestic industries based on spurious welfare considerations.

   
 

Management Turmoil at Hampton Creek Inc.

May 26, 2017

    

Bloomberg Technology recently reported on extensive ‘churn’ in the management ranks at Hampton Creek.  Olivia Zaleski documented the changes which included:-

  • Firing of the Head of Finance in October 2016
  • Firing of the Head of Logistics in October 2016
  • Dismissal of the CFO in April 2017
  • Dismissal of the COO in April 2017
  • Dismissal of the HR Director in April 2017
  • Resignation of the Vice President of Business Affairs and Corporate Counsel in May 2017
 

It is unclear whether the resignations and dismissals are an attempt to reduce the cost of operations or whether these executives were incompatible or disillusioned with the founder Josh Tetrick.  Since 2015, Tetrick has acquired total control of Hampton Creek since he has majority voting power over the Board.  According to Zaleski this strategy has been beneficial for Facebook and Alphabet but has proved controversial and damaging for Uber Technologies and Zenefits.

At issue is the generally accepted reality that Hampton Creek requires infusions of capital to remain afloat, given reported losses.  The Bloomberg Technology article suggest that Tetrick has only raised $7 million towards the current funding round of $150 million, although this figure was denied by a company spokesperson in the absence of alternative figures which were  not provided.

The image of Tetrick and his company was sullied by revelations that he employed contractors in 2014 and 2015 to purchase quantities of Just Mayo™ an egg-free mayonnaise substitute, to create the impression of consumer demand.  Although Tetrick has informed employees that investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice have been dropped, there have been no official announcements from either of the Agencies.

According to Bloomberg, losses have been reduced to approximately $4 million per month, down from a whispered $10 million. It is unclear how money is spent since the promised introduction of a stream of vegetable-based products are not apparent on supermarket shelves.

The fact that Tetrick is claiming interest from investors in Asia indicates a lack of confidence from traditional U.S. venture capitalists.  Dropping names such as Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal and various Chinese industrialists is less than reassuring.

When Tetrick established his enterprise together with Josh Belk of the HSUS, it was claimed that the innovative technology of the company would displace conventional production of eggs by hens.  None of the prognostications, widely publicized by Tetrick-hype has come to pass.  All that Hampton appears to show for millions invested is a ‘me-to’ mayonnaise substitute, cookie dough and minor products which use off-the-shelf formulas.

It is time for Tetrick to disclose sales figures, a projection of when the company will achieve breakeven and to provide an explanation of how funds provided by private investors have been expended and what the company has to demonstrate for the claimed R&D.  Hampton Creek is looking less like an innovator and disruptor than a money pit.

   
 

Antigen-Capture Tests Present Epidemiologic Challenge in Public Health

May 19, 2017

    

During the period 2013 through 2016, the use of Culture-Independent Diagnostic Tests (CIDTs) increased from 2 per 460 laboratories to 59 per 421 laboratories participating in the FoodNet cooperative database*.  Although CIDTs generally have high sensitivity and concurrent specificity, experience has shown variable results when assaying for Campylobacter, yielding occasional false positive diagnoses. The fact that laboratories can perform a rapid and inexpensive CIDT assay will intuitively result in an apparent increase in incidence rates. Unfortunately a spurious increase in incidence rates is to be anticipated.

  

Data presented in the review covering a three-year period showed that approximately 1,500 infections with Campylobacter were diagnosed in 2013 compared to 3,500 in 2016. For the same period, Salmonella diagnoses increased from 100 to 1,500 for ten laboratories in participating states and counties. The 2016 confirmed infection rate for Campylobacter was 11.8 per 100,000 population representing an 11 percent decline in confirmed cases from 2013 through 2015. When reviewing cases of campylobacteriosis either confirmed or CIDT positive, the 2016 rate was 17.4 per 100,000.

For salmonellosis, the 2016 confirmed infection rate was 15.4 per 100,000 representing a two percent increase over the average annual incidence rate compared to 2013 through 2015. When considering the number of cases confirmed or applying CIDT, the 2016 rate increase was 16.7 cases per 100,000 or a six percent increase.

An inherent problem relating to increasingly more extensive application of CIDT is that the diagnostic protocol does not include isolation of the causal pathogen which is therefore unavailable for classification as to serotype or whole genome sequencing. This information is critical to evaluating epidemiologic studies.

 *Marder, E. P. et al, Incidents In Transient Infections With Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food And The Effect Of Increased Use of Culture-Independent Diagnostic Tests on Surveillance MMWR. 66: 397-403 (2017)

   
 

Row Crop Farmers Pain is Egg-Producers’ Gain

May 5, 2017

    

It is axiomatic that the domestic price of corn and soybean meal which represent close to 70 percent of nest- run cost is determined by World supply and demand.  This suggest that domestic producers of corn and soybeans are effectively in direct competition with Argentine, Brazil, and the Ukraine.

The preeminence of the U.S. with respect to exports has shifted radically during the past 30 years.  It is estimated that U.S. exported 26 million metric tons of soybeans and 55 million metric tons of corn in 1985.  The U.S. share of these export markets was 77 percent and 56 percent respectively. 

 

Although export volume has increased steadily attaining 143 million metric tons of soybeans in 2016, the U.S. share has halved to 38 percent.  In the case of corn, a three-fold increase in exports to 154 million metric tons in 2016 represented only 37 percent of world corn trade.

The U.S. has virtually maxed-out on acreage for corn and soybeans. Arable acreage available for cultivation has actually declined by 12 percent since 1982. Given price projections for the two main commodities in the 2017 season, there has been a shift from corn to soybeans but total acreage has remained unchanged as noted in the most recent April WASDE report. In contrast nations such as Brazil have the luxury of converting vast acreages of potentially arable land to row crops.

The trend towards increased production in Brazil is reflected in increased sales of genetically engineered seed, permitted since 2004, coupled with investment in fertilizer plants and facilities to manufacture tractors and combines.  The major seed companies, which today represent an oligopoly, are now producing cultivars specifically developed to resist insect pests prevalent in Latin America. 

In the April WASDE Report he USDA forecast corn prices for the 2016 crop within a range of $3.25 to $3.55 per bushel and soybeans over a range of $9.40 to $9.70 per bushel.  The prospects for increased ethanol production which would raise the price of corn do not appear promising. This is based on rising opposition to the RFS by non-corn state legislators and by an evident pro-fossil fuel bias by the Administrator of the EPA and by the Secretary of Energy.  Despite recent reassurances by President Donald J. Trump, reiterating support for corn-based ethanol expressed in his pre-election rhetoric, the reality may be different. 

Irrespective of U.S. Administration policy, the World supply of biofuels now exceeds demand, constraining the ability of distillers to increase volume.  In many corn-producing areas in the nation with a high demand by ethanol plants for available corn, farmers frequently have to pay up to 50 cents per bushel as a premium since they compete with the subsidized ethanol industry.  Fixing or even lowering the RFS as expected will obviously be to the benefit of producers.

The effect of lower corn and soybean meal prices on production cost is illustrated by the projection that during the third quarter of fiscal 2017, one cent per dozen in feed cost represented $2.6 million to the bottom line of Cal-Maine Foods.  Similar proportional benefits accrue to all egg producers.

During the past three years, corn and soybean crops have reached record or near-record levels. A drought such as the 2012-3 occurrence could materially affect commodity prices on the domestic market.  Major weather patterns are influenced by El Nino/La Nina cycles.  Evidence points to an emerging El Nino which is usually associated with increased rain in the Midwest which will benefit yields compensating for losses in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions such as Australia where wheat will be impacted. 

Stability and predictability in World trade would have been likely had the Trans Pacific Trade Agreement been approved.  Renegotiation of the NAFTA agreement may be to the detriment of U.S. crop farmers, further reducing domestic prices.

   
 

Endoscopic Sexing of day-old Chicks Report by Poultry Periodicals

Apr 28, 2017

    

At least three poultry periodicals or their websites have reported recently on an endoscopic system to visualize the male copulatory organ in day- old chicks. 

Using the apparatus, the study team in Japan were able to achieve 91 percent accuracy in White Leghorn pullet chicks and 88 percent in Rhode Island Red pullet chicks. As anticipated sexing of male chicks achieved a higher level of 95 percent.

  

There is no indication of the rate of sexing using an endoscope but it must be slower than trained operators apply vent sexing which achieves levels of 99 percent or feather sexing by color which is equally accurate depending on diligence of hatchery workers.

It is inexplicable why poultry periodicals and industry websites would report on a project which is essentially reinventing the wheel.  The reports basically reproduce releases announcing “progress” made by a group of scientists engaged in make-work activities of little relevance to commercial production.

   
 

Glyphosate Residue Free! A Cynical Marketing Claim

Apr 21, 2017

    

A California company, Leaf and Love Lemonade, is marketing products claimed to be “glyphosate-residue free.”  If the truth be known, there is no detectible glyphosate residue in foods. Naturally, the marketing initiative, based on the sophistry and appealing to the affluent “worried well” of California is lauded on the Detox Project website.

This type of misinformation possibly fueled by discredited claims by IARC, claims that glyphosate is toxic, causing cancer, birth defects and disruption of hormonal function,.

  

Reputable scientific organizations including the EU European Chemicals Agency, European Food Safety Agency, United Nations World Health Organization, Health Canada, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA have determined that glyphosate is innocuous when administered to laboratory animals.

Organizations such as Leaf and Love Lemonade should be ashamed of themselves for their blatant attempts to generate sales by spurious allegations of health risks which are non-existent. Invariably there is some misinformed celebrity endorsing the idiocy or mendacity, in this case Amy Dibianca – co-founder of Leaf and Love Lemonade who is promoting the scam.     

Yet again we have an example of exploitation of ignorance for financial gain. The exercise is at best misguided and at worst a cynical attempt to profit from fear and ignorance.

   
 

Wheat Cultivar Bred to Express Phytase

Apr 21, 2017

    

A number of poultry periodicals have recently highlighted joint studies conducted at Trent University in Nottingham, U.K. and Aarhus University in Denmark concerning the evaluation of a strain of wheat, developed about 10 years ago which expresses a high level of phytase.

The exercise is simply an academic make-work endeavor to create a solution for which there is no evident problem. For more than three decades, poultry producers have added commercially available phytase, now a commodity, to diets to reduce the quantity of inorganic phosphorus supplements to satisfy nutritional requirements for poultry. The incorporation of synthetic phytase in diets is mandated in many areas of the world to reduce phosphorus content of manure and hence eutrophication of waterways due to run-off from fields fertilized with chicken waste.

  

Even if wheat expressing phytase becomes available, it would have no impact in the U.S. or other countries where corn is the major cereal incorporated in diets. In the E.U. it will be necessary to segregate modified wheat from the conventional commodity. This will add considerably to the cost of acquiring a special ingredient necessitated by the imperative of complete traceability and identification through the chain extending from field to feed.

There is obviously concern that poultry journalists accept press releases from universities and in many cases from companies without questioning  validity, applicability or commercial reality in their ‘infomercials’. Evidently inquiry and skepticism are no longer taught in contemporary schools of journalism or are these periodicals operating simply as “cut-and-paste operations?.

   
 

Family Feud-British Royal Style

Apr 14, 2017

    

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, is an avowed supporter of organic farming. He considers that GM crops have damaged the Earths’ soil, and he openly opposes GM crops and ingredients which he regards as an experiment “gone seriously wrong”.

In contrast his sister Anne, the Princess Royal, in an interview to be aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation stated, “Gene technology has got real benefits to offer.”  She opined, “technology maybe has an occasional downside but I suspect not very many.”  She opposes her brother in stating “condemnation of all farming other than organic is a huge oversimplification”. 

  

Prince Charles

The public debate over the merits and safety of organic compared to conventional farming has attained new significance as Britain intends to leave the E.U. This would free the Nation from onerous regulations and constraints which have impeded adoption of GM technology on the Continent.

   
 

FDA Questions Safety of Pharmaceutical Products from India

Apr 14, 2017

    

Frequently the FDA had been criticized in the columns of CHICK-CITE and EGG-CITE for not adequately protecting U.S. consumers and patients with respect to foreign-produced generic drugs. This criticism has been used to justify the concept of unified food safety agency since it is maintained the FDA is ineffective with both regard to its responsibilities for food and for drugs.

  

Reuter’s reported that the FDA has issued a warning letter to a Mylan NV manufacturing plant in Nashik in the state of Maharashtra, India. The warning letter included the statement “Your quality system does not adequately ensure the accuracy and integrity of data to support the safety, effectiveness and quality of the drugs you manufacture.” In addition the FDA noted numerous violations including failure to “thoroughly investigate” unexplained discrepancies in drug batches and cited examples of “missing, deleted and lost data.” 

Mylan operates nine plants in India producing antiretroviral drugs used to suppress HIV. In 2015 the FDA sent warning letters expressing concern over quality control at three Mylan facilities in the city of Bengaluru.

With respect to pharmaceutical products, any deficiencies in operation should be regarded in a serious light and should result in more than a warning letter, especially in view of the fact that the company has been cited for discrepancies on previous inspections. These occur at infrequent intervals. There does not seem to be a reason why the FDA should not place the Plant on an embargo list since this will certainly protect U.S. consumers from substandard product and at the same time bring about urgent improvements.

The FDA is not fulfilling its obligations to consumers and despite receiving increased funding appears to favor pharmaceutical manufacturers possibly as a consequence of the “revolving-door” syndrome. By its own admission, the FDA only inspects less than two percent of imported food. Given that the Agency does not appear to be effective in surveillance of either food or drugs, it should relinquish food and concentrate on what it is apparently best equipped to control.