Shane Commentary

Perceptions of Health Effects Influenced by Questionable Research


A series of articles of questionable validity during the 1970’s created a false association between dietary intake of cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.  Published epidemiologic studies have also implicated consumption of red meat in the incidence of colorectal cancer, ischemic heart disease and breast cancer.


The fact that articles are published in prestige journals and authored by faculty at prominent and respected universities provides a justification for opponents of intensive livestock production to demonize animal protein.  More recently, those opposing meat, eggs and milk have found common cause with environmental activists to create a unified front that effectively reinforces a vegan agenda.


A recent article published in Nature Medicine* represented the application of sophisticated and advanced epidemiologic analytical techniques to establish whether any relationship exists between unprocessed red meat and specific health outcomes.  These included breast cancer, colorectal cancer, type-2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease and both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke.  Available literature was critically reviewed to determine the strength of association between unprocessed red meat consumption and the selected health outcomes applying burden of proof risk function methodology.


The paper established a weak association between unprocessed red meat consumption and colorectal cancer and ischemic heart disease.  There was no evidence of an association between unprocessed red meat and either ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke.  The authors noted considerable uncertainty attributed to evident between-study heterogeneity with daily intakes of red meat ranging from zero to 200 g.  The authored concluded that although some evidence existed that unprocessed read meat consumption may be associated with a risk of disease it was weak and inadequate to make conclusive dietary recommendations.  It appears therefore that meta-analysis on dietary effects relating to disease should not be regarded as inconclusive and should not form the basis of national dietary recommendations.  This reasoning was possibly responsible for deletion of a maximum daily intake of dietary cholesterol in the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.


Notwithstanding the validity of scientific data, opponents of intensive livestock production will  cherry pick medical literature and amplify aspects and findings to support preconceived concepts and form the basis of postings on websites.


*Lescinsky, H. et al. Health effects associated with consumption of unprocessed red meat: a Burden of Proof study. Nature Medicine. 28: 2,075 to 2,082 (2022)


The Need to Reduce Methane Emissions


Methane represents twenty percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions.  Although relatively short-lived compared to carbon dioxide, methane has almost 100 times the global warming potential compared to carbon dioxide.


Although agriculture is blamed for methane emissions, the petrochemical industry is the largest emitter of methane and possibly the easiest to constrain.  During the COP27 Climate Conference in Egypt, the President announced higher emissions standards and penalties for methane release by the oil and gas industries.  This action is reinforced by similar restrictions to be imposed by fifteen nations.


With regard to intensive livestock industry and the release of methane by CAFOs, biodigesters will be funded by the Inflationary Reduction Act.  These installations will be capable of converting livestock waste from dairy and hog operations into biogas that can be used to generate power.


Intensive livestock production has come under extreme pressure from environmental groups and there is now common cause among welfare, vegan and environmental activist organizations. They have obviously generated synergy in their lobbying and public relations efforts to demonize milk, pork, beef and egg production by creating a sense of guilt over environmental degradation among consumers.


Even if we concede that intensive livestock production has a quantifiable deleterious effect on the environment, opponents cannot provide an alternative to the protein food produced by the intensive livestock industries that is currently required to satisfy nutritional needs.


Inordinate Publicity Devoted to Indiscretion by CFO


The recent, “Goldilocks in Arkansas” event has generated considerable publicity far beyond the impact of the charge of public intoxication.  The fact that the perpetrator was the newly appointed CFO of a major protein company, and the son of the Chairman, certainly did not warrant the coverage afforded, not only by general media but specifically poultry-related magazines and websites.


The fact that the individual involved bore the name of his company and brand and that he is the fourth-generation family member in an executive position is immaterial but apparently considered newsworthy.


The facts concerning the event have yet to be disclosed but since the alleged intoxication did not involve a vehicle and the only damage was the possible psychological trauma to the owner of the home finding the person asleep in a bedroom, the case should be resolved with the utmost dispatch.


The reporting on this incident demonstrates more than a hint of schadenfreude, that unique Teutonic characteristic of enjoyment at the expense of another person. This is evident in both  detail and repetition, including the publication of a mug shot.


The person involved is obviously highly intelligent, academically accomplished but possibly under extreme pressure to perform in business and within the family.  We each respond individually to the stresses of life and sometimes we make inappropriate decisions.  The person involved has received a severe shock to his reputation and status, but the event has apparently led to counseling and rehabilitation.


EGG-NEWS extends a measure of understanding to him and sympathy to the homeowner and it is hoped that the event and its aftermath will be transitory.  There are times when journalistic discretion is appropriate.  Repetition of the event on poultry industry websites and in magazines was unnecessary.  As the company release stated, “This was a personal matter and in no way reflected on the management and performance of the company”.  The CFO concerned has endured humiliation based on press reports and accordingly it is now time to move on.


Avian Influenza Diagnosed Among Poultry Workers in Spain


Two poultry workers were apparently infected with H5N1 strain Avian Influenza following exposure while depleting an infected farm.  There was no evidence of subsequent person-to-person transmission. The workers were in contact with an infected flock in Guadalajara Province in late September. 


Three days after commencing the project, 12 workers were sampled by nasopharyngeal swabbing with the virus detected in two workers.  Samples from close contacts of the first affected individual were negative by RT-PCR assay.  The second worker yielded a positive nasopharyngeal swab on October 13th, three weeks after participating in cleaning and disinfection.  Two contacts of the infected individual tested negative on sampling. 


The two asymptomatic cases in Spain are reminiscent of the single case reported in the U.S. in a worker participating in depopulation and disinfection on an infected farm in the Midwest. These rare cases indicate the need to immunize all people coming into contact with poultry by administering the current seasonal influenza vaccine. Workers should be screened daily for any febrile reaction in order to prevent a possible gene interchange between avian and human strains of influenza virus with the potential for a zoonotic strain of avian influenza.


USDA Provides Grants for Urban Agriculture


The USDA intends to disburse $14.2 million to 52 recipients to support urban agriculture using  funds derived from the American Rescue Plan Act.  The intent is to allow recipients to “expand access to nutritious foods, foster community engagement, increase awareness of climate change and mitigate the effects within urban areas”.  Studies have shown that throwing money at urban projects does not materially increase the quality of nutrition in the area served.


This initiative is yet another example of USDA largesse and the intent by USDA administrators to alter the structure of U.S. agriculture, detracting from traditional farmers irrespective of their scale of their operation.


The press release is replete with buzzwords and homilies but short on specifics.  The announcement manages to touch all the bases including “new farmers”, “underserved communities”, “sell locally”, “job creation”, “reducing the climate impact on food supply” and “economically distressed neighborhoods”.


Grants will be provided for either planning or implementation projects.  The current tranche of funding extends to 18 planning projects and 34 implementation projects.


The USDA characterizes the $14.2 million in grants as an “investment”.  If this is the case, the USDA should be obliged to provide a report on the actual financial return on this investment, since public funds are involved.


Holland Evaluating Vaccines Against HPAI


In a recent announcement Wageningen Bioveterinary Research, a component of Wageningen University will evaluate three commercial vaccines against H5N1 HPAI in laying hens.  These products will be compared with experimental vaccines developed using advanced molecular technology. The E.U. is actively evaluating vaccination as an adjunct to biosecurity and depopulation of affected flocks as a coordinated approach to controlling HPAI.


The evaluation will be conducted over three months and vaccines will be compared as to their ability to suppress mortality and clinical signs and more important, to reduce virus shedding.  To be acceptable to E.U. regulators, vaccines must prevent multiplication and excretion of virus that would be responsible for persistent infection. This is especially important in areas with a high concentration of domestic poultry as in the Netherlands, and regions of Germany, Poland, the U.K. and in the U.S.


In past years, Avian Influenza was a sporadic disease introduced by migratory waterfowl and was justifiably regarded as exotic in most industrialized nations.  Accordingly, an approach involving rapid diagnosis and depopulation with quarantine restrictions was and is appropriate.  Since 2020, the H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza carrying Eurasian genes has proven to be more extensive in geographic distribution.  The current panornitic has affected a wide range of migratory and domestic birds, resulting in prolonged and recurrent outbreaks extending from November 2021 through the present.  The experience in the E.U. is reflected in outbreaks in the U.S., dealing with essentially the same viral pathogen.


Clearly the results of studies in the E.U. and in other areas where HPAI can now be regarded as either seasonally endemic or de facto endemic will be of value to regulators in the U.S.  Given the severity of the current U.S. epornitic and with poultry industries facing a worldwide panornitic, vaccination must be considered as an option.  This will require relaxation of trade restrictions, modifying bans on importation to the county or regional level in nations experiencing outbreaks. 


EGG-NEWS maintains that Avian Influenza is effectively the Newcastle disease of the 2020s.  With the exception of Scandinavia, the disease is effectively controlled by applying a range of live attenuated, inactivated and vectored vaccines.


Time to Repeal the Jones Act?


In discussion with Michael Sencer, Senior Vice-president of Hidden Villa Ranch, and the EVP representative for Villa Rose, LLC, the operator of Waialua Egg Farm, it is apparent that the landed cost of feed contributes to high price and is a deterrent to greater consumption of eggs in Hawaii.  The principal reason for the disproportionate price of feed on the West Coast and in Hawaii relates to ocean freight rates attributed to the Jones Act. 


Introduced during the early 1920s following WWI, this legislation was intended to create self-sufficiency with respect to shipments between and among U.S. ports, especially in times of war.  The Jones Act specifies that shipments must be on vessels constructed in the U.S. owned by U.S. shareholders and manned by U.S. crews.  The Jones Act is an anachronism, since the U.S. does not have a maritime ship-building industry and the requirements of the Jones Act represent non-competitive advantages for both shippers and marine-trade unions to the disadvantage of consumers, especially in Puerto Rico and Hawaii.  By restricting competition, the Jones Act facilitates high prices verging on exploitation.  Although waivers are possible under emergency conditions such as recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico, they are seldom issued by the White House and are based on individual vessels. 


Repealing the Jones Act would allow foreign vessels to convey containerized feed from the West Coast to Hawaii at a cost lower than at present.  With competition from lower-priced U.S. mainland eggs, shelf prices for mainland and domestic production would be reduced, and consumption would rise, benefitting both the producers and consumers in Hawaii. Given vested interests and lobbying by domestic ocean freight companies and the seafarers’ union  prospects for change are currently remote.


Internal FDA Report on Infant Formula Debacle—Need for Radical Change


The September 20th internal FDA report Evaluation of Infant Formula Response identified five areas that require attention to ensure a safe food supply:-


  • Introduction of modern information technology and exchange of data.
  • Adequate staffing, training, equipment and regulatory authority for the FDA.
  • An updated emergency response system.
  • Additional knowledge concerning the epidemiology of Cronobacter contamination and control measures.
  • Evaluation of the infant formula industry with specific attention to concentration of production facilities and response to contamination


According to the self-serving commentary, “There was no single action to pinpoint as the cause of the events that occurred but the prolonged production and distribution of potentially contaminated product demonstrated vulnerabilities in the control of food safety”.


The immediate response of FDA to any problem usually manifested by an extensive food outbreak resulting in Congressional scrutiny is to demand more funding and greater authority.  Given the infant formula problem, the FDA possessed sufficient power and resources to have predicted and proactively averted the problems that occurred. Not that the infant formula event was either unique or unprecedented.


Instead of temporizing and diverting responsibility to both internal and external reviews, Dr. Robert Califf the newly reappointed Commissioner of the FDA, should simply fire the senior managers who sat on a whistleblower’s credible report for a number of months.  Administrators who suspended routine plant audits and evaluations on the flimsy grounds of COVID infection should be disciplined for dereliction of duty.  The structure of the FDA with relation to responsibilities and actions should be seriously analyzed, given credible press reports on protecting turf, dissension and lack of cooperation among senior managers. Inevitably it is not worth trying to fix something that is irretrievably broken.  A new structure will not change culture that is deeply ingrained in the FDA favoring drug and device oversight to the detriment to food safety. 


Again, EGG-NEWS advocates for an independent food safety agency paralleling the EU Food Safety Authority or the Canadian Food Safety Agency. An independent U.S. entity should be totally committed to enforcing appropriate standards to prevent food borne disease and toxicity. An effective agency would be staffed by dedicated professionals with expertise in epidemiology, manufacturing practices, surveillance and enforcement and would be coordinated by administrators capable of operating within the DC executive and legislative jungle. Additionally to be effective, a national U.S. food service agency should incorporate the current responsibilities of the Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure a seamless approach to food safety.


 Given any prospect of reorganization, commissioners and directors circle the wagons, sign memoranda of agreement and promise to play nice with each other then simply revert to this status quo.  How many more food-related disease outbreaks or disruptions do we endure before concerted action is taken? Congress needs to establish an agency that can be proactive, aggressive but constructive in establishing and enforcing a comprehensive food-safety program benefitting consumers and our export market.


US POULTRY Soliciting Pre-proposals on HPAI Research


In a September 26th release, US POULTRY and the US POULTRY Foundation requested research pre-proposals to conduct research on aspects of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).


Suggested areas of investigation included:

  • Evaluation of shedding of virus from flocks infected with HPAI and persistence of the virus in houses following depopulation.
  • Humane and effective methods to depopulate caged layer and aviary flocks.
  • Possibility of inter-farm transmission of HPAI virus on dust entrained by wind.
  • Surveillance of wild birds, presumably both domestic and migratory waterfowl and small mammals for the presence of AI virus.
  • Enhancement of biosecurity.


The topics enumerated in the request for pre-proposals are all relevant but omit vaccination that inevitably will be a necessary component along with biosecurity to prevent outbreaks of HPAI. These items in addition to field and molecular epidemiology should have been investigated by USDA-ARS immediately after the 2015 outbreaks and during the 2022 epornitic. 


The initiative by US POULTRY is commendable but the need for action by an industry association denotes a lack of initiative and imagination by USDA either in internal research or funding studies by academia.  The Department and its APHIS Agency appeared to be stuck in a 1985 mode of attempting to “stamp out” what they consider to be an exotic disease.  Uppermost in the epidemiologic investigations should be a realistic determination of whether HPAI is exotic, seasonally endemic or de facto endemic.  Obviously, the actual status of HPAI in the U.S. and Canada is pivotal to developing appropriate control and prevention measures.  These will rely on a more detailed knowledge of the routes of infection for egg production complexes and turkey grow-out farms. An understanding is required concerning the risk factors for infection and the respective interactions among wild migratory and domestic birds, backyard flocks and commercial operations.  An intriguing question is why broiler grow-out farms remained relatively unscathed during the 2022 epornitic.


It is hoped that the Research Committee, in reviewing pre-proposals, will fund projects based on their individual and collective contribution to resolving issues.  Coordination of research activities to prevent duplication and to promote a more comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of HPAI will be necessary.


Internal FDA Report on Shortage of Infant Formula Released


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a long-awaited internal report on the infant formula crisis.  The report was authored by a team headed by Dr. Steven Solomon, Head of the FDA Veterinary Division. The report identified a number of areas of concern involving delays in communication, obvious operational failures and “general lapses”. Recommendations by Dr. Solomon included improved information. technology, intensified training of staff and an updated emergency response system to deal with food safety issues as they arise.


Predictably, there will be little retribution for incompetence or dereliction of duty and the crisis will “be handled through the personnel process”. The culture of the FDA is characterized by the public statement by the Director, Dr. Robert Califf, who stated, “We are not going to spend a lot of time going back, we are going to spend our time taking into account what happened and move forward.” Dr. Califf considers that the report provides a “clear road map for the infant formula issue and provides a nice bridge to the overall food program’s evaluation”.


In contrast a more detailed and incisive report on the issue was published in Politico entitled, “The FDA’s Food Failure” by Helena Bottemiller Evich on April 8th to which readers are referred.


The shortages that emerged still persist with many stores and outlets having 20 percent out-of-stock rates. The FDA may well wish to bury failures at numerous levels leading to the crisis, including the glaring lack of response to a whistle-blower report over three months together with a de facto moratorium on plant inspections attributed to the COVID crisis. 


The Administration was obliged to arrange for military transport aircraft to bring in supplies of formula from overseas plants that were hastily approved.  Obvious problems identified in the internal FDA report and by media include extreme concentration of production among a few plants. The Evich exposé identified a preoccupation with achieving production goals and maximizing profit at the expense of quality and safety by Abbott Nutrition, the largest manufacturer of a range of specialty and conventional formulas.


Given the self-serving internal FDA report and the disinclination to hold managers within the Agency responsible for lack of response to a potential crisis and dereliction of duty, it is inevitable that a similar food-related crisis will occur in the future.


EGG-NEWS has consistently advocated for a dedicated U.S. food safety agency since the best interests of consumers would be served by a single entity suitably funded and staffed and provided with the authority to concentrate on the safety of domestic and imported foods.


Extensive International Reach Of The Chinese Communist Party


Egg-NewsAttorney Dan Harris, of Harris Bricken LLP, recently published a commentary on the influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on students, citizens and defectors in the U.S.  This caution is especially important in the context of protecting intellectual property.


The CCP is intent on extending its influence over Chinese citizens living abroad for both political and commercial benefit.  The CCP employs commercial pressure and intimidation to coerce students and citizens to assist the government. 


Harris cites the significant reduction in the importation of canola oil from Canada in 2018, shortly after the arrest of Ms. Meng Wenzhou daughter of the founder of Huawei at the behest of U.S. authorities.  Pressure was placed on state-affiliated importing companies not to purchase Canadian canola oil. 


There is extensive evidence that agents of the Communist Party have infiltrated nongovernmental organizations, including business and cultural groups.  Newsweek, after an extensive investigation, determined that the CCP has operated through various channels to influence decisions at the federal, state and local levels to benefit their political and economic interests.  Social media and messaging apps and organizations and academic institutions are involved in promoting activities that benefit China.


Agents of the Chinese Communist Party frequently coerce highly trained Chinese citizens living in North America to return to the homeland using threats of retaliation against relatives, including violations of parental custody.  China has established a secret police presence in 54 nations on five continents to extend the reach of the central government designed to intimidate expatriate nationals of China and to exert pressure through harassment, intimidation and threats of retribution with the intent of acquiring intellectual property.


The unfortunate corollary of the expanding policy of control exerted by the CCP is that it creates  suspicion for loyal U.S. scientists, academics, businesspeople and employees of Chinese ethnicity in the U.S.


The take-home message from Dan Harris is to maintain ever-increasing levels of protection over intellectual property and to be aware of the constant attempts at intrusion to obtain possession of information that could benefit the Communist Party and Nation.


California Department Of Food And Agriculture Belatedly Releases Proposition #12 Rules


Proposition #12 was passed by ballot initiative in November 2018.  The law created by voter adoption prohibited confinement of farm animals, including egg-laying hens, veal calves and breeding sows “in a cruel manner” and prohibits the sale of products in California from farm animals so confined.  The final regulations were released in early September 2022, nine months after the proposed date of implementation of January 1, 2022.  A previous court decision extended a grace period of six months to producers after the rules with respect to Proposition #12 were issued.


The requirements that all producers selling livestock products in California comply with the CDFA rules was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that is now the subject of a scheduled hearing by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)


The regulations are now due to take effect on January 1st 2023. In the interim, the National Pork Producers Council and other agricultural associations, supported by numerous states Attorneys General, have petitioned SCOTUS to rule on the constitutionality of Proposition #12 that may conflict with the Dormant Commerce Clause by interfering in interstate commerce.  The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation will present oral arguments before SCOTUS on October 11th, although a ruling is not expected until the spring of 2023.


At issue is the effective banning of gestation crates for sows since this system of housing conflicts with the space requirement of 24 square foot of usable floor space with unrestricted movement that can only be provided applying group housing.


The CDFA requirements for egg-laying hens state, “The enclosure shall allow the egg-laying hen to lie down, stand up, fully extend limbs and turn around freely.”  In addition, “The enclosure shall be an indoor or outdoor controlled environment within which hens are free to roam unrestricted.”  This provision presumes either barn housing or aviaries and effectively precludes enriched colony modules.


At the present time 34 percent of the national flock has transitioned to housing systems for egg-producing flocks that are compliant with Proposition #12, more than adequate to supply California. The pork industry has attained about 25 percent conversion to group housing of sows and accordingly could provide pork that satisfies California regulations. The U.S. egg industry will not be unduly affected by the outcome of the appeal to SCOTUS irrespective of the ruling. What is more important will be the policies of the major chains, food service providers and ultimately consumers who will have to pay for enhanced welfare.


Opposition to California a Minimum Wage Law


Restaurant operators are reviewing options after Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed the FAST Act on Labor Day, September 5th following passage by the Legislature on Monday, August 29th. The FAST Act establishes a Council that will determine wage rates that may exceed $20 per hour for QSR workers in certain regions of the state. The Council will comprise ten members with representatives of workers, unions, and employers selected by the Governor. The Bill includes a sunset provision for the Council that will take effect in 2028 unless renewed.


A coalition termed “Protect Neighborhood Restaurants” presumably formed from the California Restaurant Association has proposed a referendum to overturn the law. This will require collection of at least 623,000 valid signatures by December 4th to place the issue on the 2024 ballot. Restaurant interests spent over $1 million on lobbying against the Act resulting in some modifications to the final version including a $22 per hour wage cap.


The Act will have a disproportionately negative effect on chains that own their own locations including Chipotle and Starbucks compared to competitors operating with a franchise model.


If the revocation becomes a Proposition the resulting outlay on advertising to attract support by both organized labor and the restaurant industry may exceed $100 million. About $220 million was expended on Proposition #22 in 2020 involving the employment status of ride-share drivers.


Eggs Responsible for SE In Europe; 2015-2019


A recent article in the International Journal of Food Microbiology* reviewed available data associated with the incidence of salmonellosis in Europe.  The rate remained fairly static from 2015 through 2019 at approximately 20 cases per 100,000 population. A total of 1,508 outbreaks in 34 nations were included in the survey covering the five-year period. Among the geographic regions Europe, Eastern Europe led with 48 percent of outbreaks, Southern Europe, 26 percent, Western Europe 18 percent and Northern Europe 8 percent.


Of the outbreaks in which a vehicle of infection could be identified, 33 percent were attributed to eggs, 14 percent to pork and other red meat and 3 percent to chicken and other poultry.  Of the isolates that were serotyped, 62 percent were Salmonella Enteritidis.  Salmonella Typhimurium represented 11 percent of all isolates from outbreaks with a known source, predominantly from pork.


In reviewing the reasons for the high prevalence of SE in Eastern Europe, it is noted that Poland, a large producer and exporter of table eggs, recorded seven percent of layer flocks (169/2,362) as SE positive in 2016.  Given that veterinary authorities were negligent in establishing standards for sampling and laboratory examination, the proportion of SE positive layers was probably in excess of the official value. Additional contributory factors affecting the supply chain in Europe include failure to wash eggs in a sanitizer and the absence of refrigeration from pre-packing storage through to point of sale as in the U.S.


It is also noted that in many nations in Europe, consumption of raw and undercooked eggs is common.  This practice, coupled with SE positive flocks, will contribute to outbreaks. Consumption of undercooked eggs was an important risk factor for outbreaks in the U.S. prior to the introduction of EQAPs and then, subsequently, the Final Rule on Salmonella Prevention issued by the FDA in 2009.


*Pinedo, L. C. et al, Sources and Trends of  Human Salmonellosis in Europe, 2015-2019: An Analyses of Outbreak Data, International Journal of Food and