Shane Commentary

 

U.S. Children Derive Calories from Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Feb 17, 2017

    

Data derived from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey published in NCHS Data Brief #271, released in January 2017 disclosed that almost two-thirds of boys and girls in the U.S. consumed at least one sugar-sweetened beverage each day.

They obtained on average 7.3 percent of total daily caloric intake from these drinks.  Non-Hispanic Asian boys and girls consumed the least calories and the lowest percentage of total calories from sugar-sweetened beverages compared to non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic boys and girls.

Numerous studies have demonstrated a link between consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and dental decay, obesity, Type-2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, and fatty liver disease.

In a related nutrition and health topic, The Union of Concerned Scientists petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to establish “disqualifying levels” of added sugars that would prohibit the use of “healthy” in labeling.  Generally, “healthy” foods should contain 3 grams or less of total fat per serving and 1 gram or less of saturated fat per serving.

  

FDA has received citizen petitions requesting that the definition of “healthy” should be reevaluated in the light of current knowledge. The term “healthy” as applied in labeling of food  has not been changed since 1994 when funded research and lobbying by the sugar industry distorted public policy on consumption of fats. This directly impacted the egg-production industry.

The FDA has now been requested to set disqualifying level” for added sugars.  The topic will be reviewed by the FDA at a March 9, 2017 public meeting on the term “healthy” in food labeling.

   
 

FDA Negligent in Inspecting Foreign Drug Plants

Feb 17, 2017

    

It would appear that the FDA is ignoring “Drugs” in their Agency title.

A report in the January 30th edition of Chemical & Engineering News cites a Government Accountability Office report which documents that the Agency has failed to inspect 1,300 drug-manufacturing facilities in foreign nations exporting to the U.S.  A total of 243 of  535 pharmaceutical facilities in China have yet to be inspected. 

  

Approximately one-third of 600 pharmaceutical plants in India have not been evaluated by FDA personnel.  The report noted that 90 percent of 171 facilities in South Korea have not been reviewed in on-site visits.

Apparently, the FDA uses a risk-based system to prioritize visits but the agency is chronically under-staffed.

Peter Saxon, president of a consulting group with extensive ties to foreign manufacturers indicated that most of the uninspected plants produce over-the-counter (OTC) products.

If the FDA can expend time and energy in inspecting egg-producing farms following the implementation of the Salmonella Prevention Final Rule and finding virtually no SE even in 2011. The Agency should have the resources to audit manufacturing facilities manufacturing both generic and OTC drugs.

EGG-CITE has frequently noted the deficiencies in establishing priorities and execution of responsibilities for protection of consumers. The FDA as presently staffed and structured cannot do justice to both food and drugs. The U.S. would be better served by separate Food Safety and Drug Agencies with concentration on their specific areas of concern.

   
 

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY EGG FARM CITED FOR CRUELTY

Feb 10, 2017

    

The District Attorney’s Office of San Bernardino County has charged Robert Hohberg with 39 misdemeanor counts of violating the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.  In addition, he will face 16 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. The charges follow an investigation initiated by the Inland Valley Humane Society in January 2016.

  

It is alleged that the 28,000 hens on the farm were housed in conventional cages, in defiance of regulations promulgated in terms of  2008 California Proposition No. 2.

Hohberg has a history of violations.  In 2012 the FDA issued a warning letter after noting deviations from the Salmonella Prevention Final Rule.

According to the news report in the LA Times, the small farm is obviously an outlier and is not representative of commercial egg production either in California or the U.S.  This is unfortunate since the negligence and intransigence of Hohberg reflects adversely on responsible egg producers and degrades the image of the industry.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney, Mike Ramos stated, “It is a very inhumane situation, if you’re going to harm animals here in the Inland Empire we’re going to hold you responsible”.  He added, “While we are obviously concerned about the health of our citizens, at the end of the day we also have a lawful obligation to ensure that animals in our County are being treated humanely”.

It is the intent of the San Bernardino County to make an example of Hohberg to prevent other farmers in the Inland Valley from mistreating flocks and herds.

   
 

CHAINS EXTENDING BEYOND TRADITIONAL EARNING DEMOGRAPHICS

Feb 3, 2017

    

Recent trends in positioning banners and formats by major U.S. chains demonstrate the flexibility of companies to attract specific demographics beyond their traditional scope. 

Dollar General has establish a test store in Nashville TN to attract millennials.  The store will be smaller than the typical Dollar General location and will have an appropriate décor and incorporate a coffee bar and pizza station.  To distinguish the format, Dollar General has assigned the banner DGX.

In introducing the concept Todd Vasos CEO of Dollar General stated, “The DGX format is geared to meet the needs of the millennial shopper who is an emerging and important part of our customer base. DGX will help us broaden our appeal to attract a new segment of urban customers who put a high premium on value and convenience”.

  

Wal-Mart Stores is perhaps the most innovative in attempting to tailor formats to specific areas and clientele.  A new store to be opened in Orlando will incorporate an organic restaurant and specialty items.  Wal-Mart Stores is also promoting Click-n-Collect with convenient drive-thru additions to new and existing stores.

Whole Foods Market has introduced “365” smaller-concept stores in high density city areas in addition to suitably stocked units in urban “food deserts” traditionally underserved by supermarkets. Irrespective of profitability the company has recognized its civic responsibility to provide local residents with fresh fruits and healthful foods.

   
 

CONGRESS PRESSES NIH OVER INTERNATIONAL AGENCY FOR RESEARCH ON CANCER

Feb 3, 2017

    

CHICK-CITE has invariably condemned releases by the International Agency for Research and Cancer (IARC) a semiautonomous agency of the World Health Organization relating to the classification of allegedly cancer-causing compounds. 

The Agency has been criticized by environmental scientists and toxicologists for concluding and deprecating chemicals as “probably carcinogenic”. 

The organization classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen and subsequently withdrew the finding following extensive protests and presentation of scientific data from reputable institutions.

  

Jason Chaffetz

In September of 2016, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) addressed a letter to the Director of the National Institute of Health Dr. Francis Coloins questioning the financial support of IARC from the NIH annual budget. It has now come to light that IARC instructed members of Working-Group not to release documents as requested by the House Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Chaffetz has requested an opinion from the National Archives and Records Administration on the legal status of information sent between a foreign body and a U.S. Government Agency.  The House Committee is now requesting all relevant communications between IARC employees and U.S. agencies.

Critics of the IARC note that the organization has generated unnecessary health concerns over classifications and is too liberal with the designation “probable carcinogen”.  It is a matter of fact that the agency does not have a classification recognizing a compound as non-carcinogenic.  The decision by IARC to classify glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” delayed re-registration of the compound which is the key ingredient of many herbicides including Round-Up™ manufactured by the Monsanto Company and which is approved in the U.S., the EU, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand.

   
 

Bans on Outside Access by Flocks in the EU

Jan 27, 2017

    

A consistent recommendation, or in some cases an absolute directive, by veterinary regulatory authorities in the EU relates to restricting or preventing outside access by flocks.  This is based on the fact that the current outbreaks of H5N8 avian influenza are attributed to introduction and dissemination of the virus by migratory and free-living birds through either direct or indirect contact with flocks.  Authorities in France, the UK, Holland and Germany have banned outside access on a regional or national basis following outbreaks.

  

In the 2015 U.S. epornitic, avian influenza in egg-producing flocks was concentrated in a few very large complexes in Iowa, Minnesota and in individual farms in Wisconsin and South Dakota.  There were few backyard or semi-commercial flocks identified in outbreaks.  The current problem in the EU appears to be associated with free-range flocks which are obviously susceptible to infection.

There have been no late 2016 reports of migratory birds carrying avian influenza along the four U.S. flyways. Notwithstanding this observation, confining flocks should be a major preventive measure from late February onwards.  The risk of infection is denoted by isolation of HPAI virus in wild birds applying structured surveillance. Emergence of HPAI can occur at any time during seasonal migration as evidenced by the recent outbreak in Chile.

Why should we expose our entire poultry industry to the risk of HPAI by maintaining 14 million hens under an organic rule which mandates outside access?

   
 

Whole Foods Promotes At the Fork Documentary

Jan 27, 2017

    

In an exercise in self-promotion and consistent with the corporate desire to appeal to an exclusive and affluent demographic, Whole Foods Market has assumed responsibility for retail marketing of At the Fork

This documentary, aired to limited audiences during the summer of 2016, is also available via iTunes and Amazon.com.   The “documentary” is decidedly opposed to intensive livestock and food production.  The production was by John Papola a claimed “omnivore” and his spouse, Lisa Versaci, a vegetarian.

Experts featured in the documentary include Leah Garces, Director of U.S. Operations for Compassion in World Farming and a Board Member of Global Animal Partnership, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Mark Bittman, a cookbook author and John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods Market.

  

The documentary is effectively an infomercial for Whole Foods Market which adopts a decidedly holier-than-thou attitude with regard to welfare through its adoption of the Global Animal Partnership-5 Step animal welfare program.  Mackey with characteristic arrogance, stated “Whole Foods is supporting the film because it believes it has the power to help drive change across the country.”  He added “in addition to sparking a deep conversation about animal welfare in agriculture, the film showcases how consumers can vote with their dollars to directly influence the way farmers raise their animals.”

Given the suboptimal financial performance of Whole Foods Market including their anaemic growth in same store sales (-2.6% for Q4, 2016), Mackey would benefit his shareholders by adopting a more mainstream program of sourcing, eschewing the “we-can-out-welfare-the-opposition” approach. This would allow the Company to reduce shelf prices since the competition both from above and below are siphoning off WFM customers. For Fiscal 2016 WFM earned $507 million on sales of $15.72 billion, representing a respectable 3.2 percent profit margin. Twelve-month share price has ranged from $27.67 to $35.58.

   
 

Extent of Illegality in the Food Industry of China Revealed

Jan 19, 2017

    

Bi Jingquan, Director of the equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration in China recently reported that more than 500,000 cases of illegal activity were disclosed following 15 million inspections of food facilities.

The activity to uncover deception, the use of illegal ingredients and counterfeit foods, follows a national program to uproot corruption and to conform to established legal standards.

  

EGG-CITE has frequently commented on the de facto standard of food-safety in China which reflects avarice and a callous disregard for public safety. A nation which is indifferent to the quality of products sold domestically will obviously have little concern for exports. 

The FDA is nominally responsible to ensure the wholesomeness of imported products but admits that it inspects less than two percent of imports. It is a matter of record that inspectors only  rarely apply sophisticated analytical screening to detect the presence of illegal residues, toxic adulterants and mislabeled products.

The Agency finds it far easier to address non-problems such as SE in large commercial farms which have been free of the infection for upwards of 10 years than to expend resources on addressing more significant and challenging situations represented by potentially harmful large-scale food imports from Asia.

   
 

Vegenaise Mayonnaise Substitute

Jan 18, 2017

 

Recently the Company introduced gourmet versions of Vegenaise® including chipotle, pesto, garlic and barbeque flavors and Vegenaise® horseradish and tartar sauces.  In addition to vegan cheese and various dips and dressings, the company also produces a vegan egg substitute.

None of the products will ever displace eggs in either mayonnaise, meal preparation or baking.  What is significant is that using a simple kitchen and available ingredients, the company has managed to produce acceptable products which appear on the shelves of both mainstream and specialty supermarkets and stores.  They have earned market acceptance within a small demographic and enjoy widespread distribution. This has been achieved without the ostentatious self-promotion, alleged deceptive marketing practices, Federal investigations, inordinate publicity, unscientific claims and litigation which has characterized upstart Hampton Creek, not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital funding. 

EGG-CITE and many commentators have noted that producing substitute scrambled egg products and non-egg mayonnaise is not difficult. Formulas are available in standard texts and can be perfected in a simple home kitchen.  The products however lack authenticity and in the case of liquids do not incorporate the functional properties of real egg products for baking and catering.

There is a place in the market for vegan egg substitutes.  There are consumers who are willing to pay more and accept differences from real egg products but this is inherent to a free market society.  Although the company promotes a “follow your heart™” motto which is trademarked, there are no overt health claims consistent with FDA rules. The Company website www.followyourheart.com is devoid of unsubstantiated hype and simply displays products in a commercially acceptable and tasteful manner. 

   
 

Why do Chefs Exert Inordinate Influence on the Food Industry?

Jan 13, 2017

    

Over the past 20 years, celebrity chefs through their cookbooks, appearances on television and contributions to the social media appear to have exerted an inordinate influence on culinary trends and the food industry.  It must be remembered that many of the prominent members of the American Culinary Federation are self-taught or espouse a specific ethnic food.  A review of the course offerings for-profit culinary institute which claims status as a ‘university’ shows deficiencies in food science and public health which would be expected of their graduates.

  

The National Restaurant Association recently published a survey comprising 1,300 professional chefs affiliated to the American Culinary Federation.  The objective was to compile the “what’s hot” list to identify themes (fads?) which will find their way onto menus in 2017. The survey identified twenty food trends, many of which were duplications or were closely connected.

  • It would appear that “house-made” is a common theme involving six of the twenty trends.  These include house-made condiments, sausages, ice cream and cheeses.  Surely “house-made” which is not subject to the rigorous microbiological evaluation and HACCP systems in commercial food manufacturing or in commissaries is what created problems at Chipotle Mexican Grill during 2015.
  • Ethnic-inspired flavors and menu items represented four of the twenty trends for 2017.  Ethnic cuisines tends to be popular until the next iteration emerges. This is denoted by the failure of many restaurants within a year of establishment especially in our costal metropolitan areas.
  • The list of trends was rounded out by projections for “healthful” foods emphasizing vegetable-protein for both adults and children.

A recent example of an unfortunate combination of a lack of knowledge or concern for food-borne disease can be found in the financial performance of Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Company was established by an entrepreneur trained as a chef.  Conceptual and practical defects in the supply chain and in both the training and management of store-personnel directly contributed to outbreaks of at least four different food-borne infections in 2015. This resulted in consumer disaffection and the evaporation of billions from the market capitalization of the company

In many respects celebrity chefs are practitioners of their art. It probably does not matter if a sculptor is unaware of the crystalline structure of marble which is formed into a statue or if an artist is unaware of the organic chemistry of pigments used.  It is however important for an executive chef organizing a kitchen or an enterprise to be constantly aware of how food-borne pathogens are introduced into establishments and how disease can be prevented by appropriate handling and cooking.

   
 

Dairy Foods Associations Petition FDA for Enforcement of “Milk” Designation

Jan 13, 2017

    

The dairy industry represented by the Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers’ Federation addressed a recent letter to the Food and Drug Administration to require the Agency to enforce label restrictions over the term “milk”. 

This is a response to the competition encountered by the dairy industry from vegetable-derived milk products.

  

Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers’ Federation said “in the many years since we first raised concerns about the misbranding of these products, we have seen an explosion of imitators attaching the word “milk” to everything from hemp to peas to algae. We don't need new regulations on this issue, we just need FDA to enforce those that we have on the books.”  It is generally conceded that milk can be defined as “the lacteal secretion obtained by the complete milking of healthy cows.”

A parallel situation, albeit not as critical, concerns egg substitutes to produce mayonnaise and alternatives with inferior functional properties promoted to replace eggs in baking and food preparation.

The claims made by Hampton Creek, producer of a non-egg mayonnaise-product were the subject of litigation with the FDA. The Agency allowed the trade name “Just Mayo™” despite the fact that the legal definition of mayonnaise requires incorporation of eggs in the formula.

The American Egg Board has generated extensive publicity to counter the use of alternatives in the baking industry.  The problem of substitution arose during the period of an unprecedented rise in the cost of pasteurized egg products following the 2015 outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.  Now that flocks have been restocked and prices have declined to normal levels with adequate availability, the use of eggs by the baking industry has increased based on contribution to product quality.

The U.S egg-production industry must maintain vigilance over the integrity of eggs. Currently we are well served by the UEP, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and the American Egg Board who are concerned with the image of eggs. We should carefully monitor events relating to milk substitutes impacting the dairy industry which previously condoned the growth of milk substitutes.

   
 

PROPOSED UPGRADES OF THE ORGANIC RULE IN QUESTION

Jan 6, 2017

    

It is possible that the USDA-AMS has run out of time to be able to publish a Final Rule which is a prerequisite to implementing new regulations governing organic livestock production.

At issue for the egg-production industry is the proposed minimum outside access requirement. Proposed area requirements of up to 3 foot2 per hen would have effectively disqualified commercial organic production from in-line aviary operations with sun-porches. This would have benefitted small-scale independent or contract family farms. 

EGG-CITE has noted previously that the previous National Organic Standards Board favored so-called “small family farms” to the detriment of commercial family-owned complexes which effectively provide the bulk of organic eggs to the U.S. market. 

  

Tom Vilsack

Faithful to his favored constituency to the very end and erudite as ever, outgoing Secretary of the USDA, Tom Vilsack stated, “I’m hopeful that we can get them (the regulations) done”.  He added, “I can’t guaranteed that they’ll get done before I leave but I’m hopeful that they’ll get done”. 

It is acknowledged that there is lack of definition in current regulations which allows for individual interpretation by organic certifiers with resulting inconsistency across the organic egg industry. 

Outside access by flocks is in any event unnecessary with regard to welfare and productivity.  In the context of catastrophic diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza carried by free- living and migratory birds, outside access represents an unacceptable risk.  It is noted that veterinary authorities in all EU countries have specifically embargoed outside access and free-range housing for at least thirty days with every expectation of an extension, given the extent and rising incidence rate of infection.

Many of the concepts promoted by traditional organic producers have no scientific basis including the need to have contact with earth.  Proposed regulations were no more than a thinly veiled attempt to exclude existing in-line aviary complexes from participating in the organic market.

The evident bias by outgoing Secretary Vilsack and his appointees is evident in his statement on the proposed rules and in the actions by his Department during his eight-year tenure.

   
 

Controversy over the Role of Sugar in Obesity and Health

Jan 6, 2017

Recent epidemiologic reviews of nutrition and health outcomes have shifted the focus from fats to sugar as a factor in causing obesity and cardiovascular disease.  The egg industry suffered for at least two decades from consumer rejection of shell eggs and egg products based on the presumption that cholesterol and unsaturated fats were responsible for adverse health issues. 

It now emerges that much of the research demonstrating a deleterious effect from consumption of fats was funded by associations and companies with a vested interest in promoting sugar.

For many years opponents of sugar were denigrated in the literature by reputable scientists with financial ties to trade associations representing the interests of the packaged food and sugar industries.

Fortunately “the cholesterol myth” has been effectively debunked, mainly due to the efforts of scientists funded by the American Egg Board.  The present controversy which focuses on Type II diabetes has serious implications for regulators who guide recommendations on nutrition and on legislators intent on placing punitive taxes on beverages with a high sugar content. 

A recent review published in The Annals of Internal Medicine questioning recent epidemiologic studies on the role of sugar in metabolic disease has been widely criticized by independent scientists.  The review was sponsored by the International Life Sciences Institute which is supported by multinational companies including Coca Cola, General Mills, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s and Monsanto.  The article questioned World Health Organization and USDA guidelines counseling restriction of sugar intake in beverages and candy.

There is a profound lack of impartiality among scientists both for and against restriction of sugar intake since both sides appear to have vested interests. Some specialists with involvement in establishing guidelines issued by the World Health Organization and the American Health Association point to epidemiologic associations among obesity, the incidence rate of Type II diabetes and intake of sugar. Some specialists also maintain that total caloric intake from both sugar and starch (and expenditure through exercise) should be taken into consideration in developing nutritional guidelines.

At the end of the day it appears that emphasis on fat intake has abated and that prevailing scientific opinion endorses consumption of an egg each day by consumers with no predisposition to rare familial hypercholesterolemia.

   
 

Food Waste Increased by “Sell By” Dates

Dec 30, 2016

    

The is a growing realization that post-harvest waste in the U.S. is a significant problem.  It is calculated that the cost of disposing of date-expired food amounts to almost $2,000 per average household.

The USDA will issue new guidance relating to “sell by” and “best if used by” dates on labels.

  

The USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety, Al Almanza, noted “in an effort to reduce food loss and waste these changes will give consumers clear and consistent information when it comes to date labeling on the food they buy.  This new guidance can help consumers save money and curb the amount of wholesome food going into trash.”

The Food Safety and Inspection Service will recommend “Best if Used By” to differentiate a specific label date from the concept of wholesomeness.

It is noted that various state regulations specify a “sell by” date imprinted on egg packs.  This requirement is now superfluous given the universal application of refrigeration from pack to point-of-sale together with more rapid delivery and rotation of stock.  Eliminating Salmonella Enteritidis from commercial flocks has reduced the risk to consumers to negligible levels. It is questioned whether shorter pre-sale allowances imposed by some states are in fact intended to enhance food safety or whether the objective is to discriminate against eggs transported into the states concerned.

   
 

Concern over HPAI in Asia

Dec 23, 2016

    

With a severe outbreak of H5N6 avian influenza raging in South Korea and reports of additional farms being affected with this virus on Kyushu Island, in Japan, producers in China are expressing concern over the possibility of introduction of this infection into their flocks.  An added concern is that China has experienced waves of H7N9 avian influenza infection in humans attributed to intimate contact with infected live chickens on farms and in wet markets. It is a matter of fact that wet markets are an important source of poultry meat in rural as well as urban areas despite the presence of supermarkets and QSRs in cities. 

  

A December 20th report in Reuters by Hallie Gu and Jane Chung indicates the extent of inappropriate responses in China to the imminence of HPAI entering flocks.  A spokesperson for a state-owned farm in Shandong Province noted “we feed chickens health-care products, vitamins and anti-virus medicine.”  He added “previously we fed them once every three months but starting from winter time we feed them once every week.”  The reference to ‘anti-virus medication’ is significant since China has consistently and inappropriately used antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) indiscriminately in poultry as a prophylactic measure to the detriment of efficacy in treating humans with this class of drug. 

Intensifying vaccination is beneficial since various serotypes of avian influenza are endemic in China. Creating an immune population among commercial flocks will limit propagation of virus in the event of infection but will also complicate recognition of affected flocks unless DIVA vaccines are used. Immunized flocks will still excrete virus if infected but flocks may be spared catastrophic mortality. Effectively in China birds from flocks not showing obvious clinical signs will be consigned to market unless appropriate surveillance and quarantine restrictions are imposed as components of control programs.

A regional meeting was held in Beijing during the past week to consider measures to prevent and control avian influenza in East Asia.  Representatives from Japan and South Korea which are both affected reviewed the situation with the host Nation.

A typical reaction by Chinese authorities following outbreaks of controllable infections is to place blanket bans on importation from entire nations. Currently this extends to about sixty countries with respect to avian influenza. China, either through institutional ignorance or by design ignores the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) principles of regionalization and compartmentalization.  Neglect of the latter provision has reduced the ability of the Nation to import grandparent-level  breeding stock from approved compartments in the EU and the U.S. Currently the country is experiencing shortages of commercial chicks of acceptable genetic potential as a result of bans imposed in 2014 and 2015 which have not been amended or relaxed.

In contrast to smaller-scale commercial producers in China who rely on a combination of traditional witchcraft, misuse of drugs and nominal biosecurity, the major suppliers of parent stock for meat and egg-producing strains have intensified biosecurity in recognition of the epidemiology of avian influenza. They have presumably adopted Western practices relating to both Structural and Operational biosecurity.

Japan has confirmed five outbreaks of H5N6 avian influenza since the end of November requiring depletion of 800,000 chickens in addition to flocks of waterfowl.  The position in South Korea is more serious with close to 20 million poultry, principally egg producing flocks, having been depleted since mid-November.  Events in South Korea are closely following previous recent outbreaks which resulted in destruction of as many as one-third of the poultry population. 

Given the extent of infection and its financial consequences it would appear justified for South Korea to introduce mass vaccination to gain time in controlling the spread of infection and to reduce losses associated with their current attempt at eradication. Even if this goal is achieved by early 2017 the Nation will invariably be faced with re-introduction of H5N6 or some other recombinant strain by migratory birds in 2018 or 2019.

Southeast Asia is moving to a “seasonal endemic status” requiring costly and ineffective attempts at long-term eradication. If re-introduction of H5 and H7 strains of highly pathogenic avian influenza become a semi-annual occurrence the Nations impacted to should review their policies on control.

In place of eradication authorities should consider suppression of clinical infection using live-vector vaccines for priming and for broilers followed by effective homologous inactivated emulsions for breeders and egg-producing flocks. 

   
 

PROPOSED UPGRADES OF THE ORGANIC RULE NOW IN QUESTION

Dec 23, 2016

    

It is possible that the USDA-AMS has run out of time to be able to publish a Final Rule which is a prerequisite to implementing new regulations governing organic livestock production.

At issue for the egg-production industry is the proposed minimum outside access requirement. Proposed area requirements of up to 3 foot2 per hen would have effectively disqualified commercial organic production from in-line aviary operations with sun-porches. This would have benefitted small-scale independent or contract family farms. 

EGG-CITE has noted previously that the previous National Organic Standards Board favored so-called “small family farms” to the detriment of commercial family-owned complexes which effectively provide the bulk of organic eggs to the U.S. market. 

  

Tom Vilsack

Faithful to his favored constituency to the very end and erudite as ever, outgoing Secretary of the USDA, Tom Vilsack stated, “I’m hopeful that we can get them (the regulations) done”.  He added, “I can’t guaranteed that they’ll get done before I leave but I’m hopeful that they’ll get done”. 

It is acknowledged that there is lack of definition in current regulations which allows for individual interpretation by organic certifiers with resulting inconsistency across the organic egg industry. 

Outside access by flocks is in any event unnecessary with regard to welfare and productivity.  In the context of catastrophic diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza carried by free- living and migratory birds, outside access represents an unacceptable risk.  It is noted that veterinary authorities in all EU countries have specifically embargoed outside access and free-range housing for at least thirty days with every expectation of an extension, given the extent and rising incidence rate of infection.

Many of the concepts promoted by traditional organic producers have no scientific basis including the need to have contact with earth.  Proposed regulations were no more than a thinly veiled attempt to exclude existing in-line aviary complexes from participating in the organic market.

The evident bias by outgoing Secretary Vilsack and his appointees is evident in his statement on the proposed rules and in the actions by his Department during his eight-year tenure.

   
 

AIV Isolated from Antarctic Penguins

Dec 16, 2016

    

Previously EGG-CITE reported on isolation of avian influenza virus from penguins.  The full report on the serotype and prevalence is included in an article in the December edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases*.

Wildlife biologists and virologists from Chile carried out surveys on penguins from nine locations in the Antarctic Peninsula.  Five serum samples from 138 birds demonstrated the presence of influenza antibody. 

A total of 21 positive AIV isolates were obtained from 513 cloacal swabs from Adelie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) and Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarcticus) on Aitcho Island located at a latitude approximately 64°South. 

The virus was identified as a recombinant H5N5 strain.  The hemagglutinin gene corresponded to a North American low-pathogenicity lineage associated with migratory ducks over the 2007-2014 period and blue-winged teals (Anas discors) from Guatemala in 2010.

The neuraminidase was derived from Eurasian N5 clade associated with wild ducks in South Korea during 2008.  Eurasian N5 genes have been demonstrated in ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpris) and sandpipers (Bartramia sp.) in the Delaware Bay.

  

Evidently genes for the H5 component were introduced into the Antarctic indirectly from the Pacific or Mississippi flyways, possibly by migratory petrels, gulls or skuas which cohabit with penguins during the summer nesting season.  It was concluded that the H5N5 AI virus isolated from penguins was a contemporary reassortant introduced by migratory birds and may represent a threat to indigenous penguin populations.

The emergence of reassortant AIV at 64°South denotes the widespread distribution of AIV and the potential for emergence of new strains which threaten commercial poultry, justifying intensive biosecurity.

*Barriga et al Avian Influenza Virus H5 Strain with North American and Eurasian Lineage Genes in an Antarctic Penguin. Emerging Infectious Diseases 22: 2221-2223 (2016).

   
 

ZIKA VACCINE MAY BE A TWO-EDGED SWORD

Dec 9, 2016

    

Faced with the inevitable spread of Zika virus infection and its consequences to the unborn, research and development of appropriate vaccines has received both funding and attention.  In a perspective article, Drs. Mark Lipsitch and Benjamin Cowling of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Hong Kong respectively make a strong case for the development of Zika vaccines*. The researchers consider both practical and ethical considerations in testing vaccines which may or may not require administration of placebos and random selection of subjects.  In the case of evaluating prospective vaccines in 2015 against Ebola virus infection which has a high fatality rate, the ethics of administering a placebo vaccine were questioned.  In the case of Zika virus, which is a relatively mild infection, other than for pregnant women, double-blind studies are feasible.

  

Dr. Henry Miller of the Hoover Institute has raised important issues regarding widespread application of a Zika vaccine.  He raises the important question of safety and the ability to detect undesirable outcomes of vaccination with limited-scale trials.  Miller notes that Zika and Dengue fever are both caused by flaviviruses and that an immune responses to a second exposure to Dengue virus results in a severe reaction.  He suggests that Zika vaccination on a wide scale may result in an undesirable immune response if recipients are subsequently exposed to Dengue virus.  Zika virus is also associated with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune condition causing  transient paralysis of varying severity.  It will be necessary to confirm that Zika virus vaccines do not elicit an autoimmune response as occurred with the “Swine Flu” vaccine in 1976.

*Lipsitch, M. and Cowling, B. J. Zika Vaccine Trials. Science 353:1094-1095 (2015)

 

   
 

Chicken and Egg Initiative for Haiti

Dec 2, 2016

    

Recently the USPOULTRY website published a solicitation for donations for the “Chicken and Egg Initiative” organized by a faith-based 501(c) 3 charity 410 Bridge.  Their intent is commendable but the practicality and financial viability are questioned. 

Maintaining hens under free-range, subsistence conditions in rural Haiti will not result in any appreciable reproduction of stock or numbers of table eggs, especially without confinement, adequate nutrition and supplementary lighting during winter. 

  

The proposal notes that “410 Bridge will purchase and consolidate eggs produced by the families that will be sold to wholesalers in urban markets”. From personal experience and observation in Haiti, virtually all eggs sold on street markets are introduced from the Dominican Republic and distributed through a chain of middlemen and traders at prices far lower than could be produced under inefficient and primitive conditions in rural Haiti.

Given the realities of the island nation, the organizers of the project are challenged as to the practical and financial viability of the proposed enterprise. As far as the retail sale of eggs through supermarkets is concerned, packaged eggs are imported from the U.S. In addition, two local producers supply eggs at prices which approximate those of imported U.S. product. 

If the intent were to provide families with eggs to be consumed as a supplement to their meager nutrition, the project would be worthwhile but $35 for two chickens to be supplied to a family appears exorbitant. A far better approach would be to provide started pullets to village cooperatives housing hens in suspended cages in open sheds.

Eggs could be collected and shared within the community against payment for the pullets and feed. Balanced poultry feed is extremely expensive in Haiti since ingredients are imported. Distribution from Port-au-Prince to the interior will add to cost, placing a question mark on the viability of family farms operated as an income-generating project. Add to this, deficiencies in the transport infrastructure, institutional corruption and other restraints, the proposal appears to be a well-intentioned but impractical enterprise given the operating environment.

   
 

HSUS Attacking Checkoff Programs

Nov 25, 2016

    

In their efforts to oppose intensive livestock production, HSUS has recognized the importance of promotional activities arising from checkoff programs.  Recently the HSUS filed lawsuit against the Office of the Inspector General of the USDA seeking release of documents relating to audits of the beef checkoff including the relationship with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

  

By creating a barrage of lawsuits, the HSUS is attempting to impede legal activities of Boards promoting animal-source products.  Discovery in the process of lawsuits provides the HSUS with information to be used against both commodity Boards and producers. The aggressive approach by the HSUS generates publicity encouraging support among donors.

It will be remembered that the HSUS successfully restrained the American Egg Board from expending checkoff funds to oppose Proposition #2 in California in late 2008 before the ballot.  The American Egg Board was further embarrassed by revelations obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests concerning attempts to restrain marketing of mayonnaise manufactured without eggs by Hampton Creek.

It can be expected that HSUS will continue to oppose checkoff programs which are recognized as being instrumental in promoting the image of livestock commodities to the benefit of both producers and consumers.