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Ear to the Ground

Because Hot Dogs Didn’t Have Enough Strange Ingredients

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Posted on Aug 20, 2006
The FDA has approved the use of certain viruses in food
Illustration by Peter Scheer

The FDA has approved the use of a group of viruses as a food additive for ready-to-eat meat products, such as hot dogs and cold cuts.  Companies that use the additive will not be required to inform consumers.

Known as a bacteriophage, the combination of six viruses is intended to combat a bacterium that kills around 500 people a year.


Wired News (AP):

The viruses are the first to win FDA approval for use as a food additive, said Andrew Zajac, of the regulatory agency’s office of food additive safety.

The bacterium the viruses target can cause a serious infection called listeriosis, primarily in pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems. In the United States, an estimated 2,500 people become seriously ill with listeriosis each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 500 die.

Luncheon meats are particularly vulnerable to Listeria because, once purchased, they typically aren’t cooked or reheated, which can kill harmful bacteria like Listeria, Zajac said.

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By Michelle, September 6, 2006 at 8:23 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t think the “general public” is as stupid as you seem to think.  I believe we have the right to make decisions about our health based on available information, and that the FDA has a responsibility to make sure that information is available.  So at the very least, I want to know what foods contain this stuff.  I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.  Pasteurized milk is called “pasteurized milk”.  They don’t try to hide it.  I think that is what a lot of people are reacting to - it just seems very strange to me that it’s the first food additive you DON’T have to list?  Why?

I’d also like to add that GMOs have really not been around long enough to be absolutely sure they are safe in the long run.  Weird things have been happening lately, that might be a coincidence or might not, such as the rates of food allergies skyrocketing, cancer rates rising, overall health taking a dive.  While I’m sure there isn’t just ONE cause, can we absolutely rule out GMOs?  Can we be absolutely sure that slightly modifying the genetic makeup of these foods is not what’s causing the sensitive human body to see them as allergens?  I’m just not as trusting in science, governemment OR drug companies to complacently sit and accept what they tell me is “safe”.  And I don’t think that makes me ignorant or “frenzied”.  I think it means that I take my health seriously in a culture where people’s lives are broken down into risk factors and statistics.

We’re saving about 500 lives a year, right?  As a percentage of the American population, which is currently 298,444,215, according to the CIA website, that is a percentage of approx. - jeez, my calculator won’t even calculate it without going into exponents.  So does that, statistically, make sense?  To spray vast quantities of this probably-safe substance to save that small of a percentage?  When in fact, safer food handling and proper cooking would do the same thing??  Of course, that would COST money rather than MAKE money for the companies that invented this stuff.  Which I think is also what people are responding to.

The whole thing just seems very odd to me.  And evidently I’m not the only one.

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By Len Asche, September 4, 2006 at 1:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Are all hot dogs raw meat when you purchase them in their sealed bags even Hebrew National, Oscar Meyer, etc.?

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By prarie chicken, August 21, 2006 at 10:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

An FDA spokesperson on condition of anonomity said that “it’s an issue of stewardship, to get those fat idiots to stop eating that crap. It’s for their own good.” He went on to comment,” We take our mandate to protect the public here at the FDA, very seriously .”

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By Todd, August 21, 2006 at 9:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’ll always remember the line from Dan Akroyd in the movie “The Great Outdoors” (echoed by a mother raccoon to her offspring later in the garbage dumps).

“Hot dogs?  Do you know what they’re made of?  Lips and assholes.  Come on, Uncle Roman’s gonna blow some coin on a lobster dinner.”

Of course, we all know that lobster eats the detritus and waste of other animals, but that’s another story.

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By FrikkenKids, August 21, 2006 at 8:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

TruthPlease,
Did you even read the link?  Here’s a quote:

“The FDA is applying one of the toughest food-safety standards which they have to find this is safe,” said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group. “They couldn’t approve this product if they had questions about its safety.”

Of course, nothing is absolutely for shure, but it sounds like they did check it out.  As far as public hearings go, as a science junkie, don’t you maybe think that the general public should be taken out of these types of descisions?  The general scientific knowlege of the average person is pathetic (see psychics, homeopathy, Kevin Trudeau, etc.)  Remember that Pasteurization - a process that in the last hundred years has saved countless lives - was resisted by the public when it was first introduced. 

People are used to the long confusing ingredients on shitty products - they know they’re probably not that good, but it’s a fact of modern life that chemicals we aren’t familiar with are in our foods.  Put the word “virus” in the ingredients, and you pretty much guarantee that a large part of the population will go into a frenzy even though these specific bacteriophages are harmless to people and can only improve the safety of the food.  Immagine if you could come up with some kind of label for seat belts in cars that would convince people that the safety devices are bad.  The general un-educated population probably couldn’t even concieve of the word “virus” meaning anything but a cause of disease.

Look at the stigma of genetically modified foods.  There is no harm - in fact millions of people have enough to eat only because of genetically modified food - but the ignorant masses are scared and demanding product labels.

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By R. A. Earl, August 20, 2006 at 9:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Good decision, TruthPlease. Viruses are the LEAST of the health hazards in “luncheon meat.”

Nitrites, nitrates, smoke, msg, saturated fat and gawd knows what other carcinogens are in there. To top it off, there are NO VITAMINS, NO FIBRE, NO NOTHING THAT YOU NEED in those meats.

Put your money into food that bodies need… whole grains, beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit and nuts. Stick with unadulterated meats - not only are they less toxic, they’re CHEAPER!

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By G. Anderson, August 20, 2006 at 9:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This makes perfect sense.

Viruses for food additives good.

Supplements bad.

Lets do our best to destroy the vitamin, and food supplement industry, because we must protect the consumer.

But let’s let children eat heavily sugared ceral, corn syrup - linked with prostate cancer, and exponse meat to carbon monoxide so it never turns brown.

Because that’s what our masters in corporate America have ordered.

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By TruthPlease, August 20, 2006 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m a real science junkie, but why is it that there seems such a rush on getting this out - we didn’t hear any public discussions - and after the Vioxx and Celebrex fiasco, you’d think our government would be a little bit cautious about exposing the Public to possibly poorly tested changes in the food supply, without Public input.
If they weren’t worried about public outcry, then why are they not required add it to the ingredients list?  Surely, if the viruses are allowed, it must be as safe as Red Dye #4 or whatever.  Those have to be listed - as far as I know, even water, if it is an ingredient, MUST be listed, but not LIVE VIRUSES????? What’s up with that?  I’d like to hear a reasonable (non-greedy) explanation.  ‘Til then, no lunchmeat or hotdogs for me or my family. And I’ll be advising everyone I know to do the same thing, until further notice.

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