The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website lists the following meat recalls for April and May, 2014:
- Michigan Firm Recalls Ground Beef Products Due to Possible E Coli O157H7 (May 19)
- New York Firm Recalls Poultry and Pork Products Due to Lack of Inspection (May 16)
- Missouri Firm Recalls Curry Chicken Salad for Possible Listeria Contamination (May 3)
- Missouri Firm Recalls Hot Dog Products Due to Undeclared Allergens and Misbranding (April 29)
- Missouri Firm Recalls Chicken Nugget Products Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination (April 4)
With headlines like these, Americans feel that they are justified in being increasingly concerned about the quality of meat products being sold to them. With so many other food choices capable of replacing meat products and the nutrients they provide, meat producers and food service industries need to aggressively address and directly answer concerns and questions posed by consumers to avoid experiencing dramatic reductions in profits.
Ensuring Consumers That Meat is Safe for Consumption
Lack of solid, evidence-based information often fuels speculation about how meat is grown, processed and packaged by food service industries, especially when repeated instances of food contamination triggers serious illnesses and recalls. Consumers are especially skeptical about certain methods used to "grow" meat before it is delivered to food service establishments and grocery stores.
Antibiotics and Livestock
Although the FDA approved the use of antibiotics in the food industry over 40 years ago, people continue to fall for aggressive campaigns spreading misinformation about antibiotics for animal production. Food service industry executives need to start providing the public with educational materials regarding the many benefits of antibiotic use in meat production as well as established oversight systems regulating the prudent use of antibiotics in livestock.
For example, many people do not know that antibiotics used in the poultry and meat industry have met scientific and regulatory criteria established by the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. Several principles also govern the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture, such as risk assessment, life-saving measures, best practices for public health and "New Alternatives," a subcategory of principles involving drug therapies to treat disease, vaccine development to prevent disease and ongoing genetic studies geared toward improving animal health sustainability.
How Biotechnology May Reduce Consumer Fears about Meat and Food Safety
Animals given feed that has been enhanced (genetically modified) with fortified vitamins and proteins are more productive, healthier and provide meat that is less susceptible to disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO): "Genetically modified foods... have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health... no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where genetically modified foods have been approved."
The meat marketing industry needs to provide consistent and up-to-date information to consumers concerning the benefits and efficacy of biotechnology.
Newsletters, email campaigns and print brochures explaining why meat becomes contaminated, what is being done to prevent meat recalls and how agriculture biotechnology can provide consumers with healthier, better tasting meat may help reverse consumer fears and re-install the public's confidence in the meat industry.
7 Ways Agricultural Biotechnology Benefits Consumers
If you’re not sure what topics to touch on in your information campaigns, consider the following was that biotech has improves the quality (and price) of meat:
- Reduces delivery time of meats to grocery stores.
- Keeps the cost of meats down for consumers while increasing profits for farmers.
- Meat comes from well-nourished, healthy animals.
- Livestock feed is more plentiful, affordable and nutritious.
- Scientific evidence has shown that hormone injections convert muscle to beef safely and without causing any side effects in humans.
- Genetic biotechnology allows agricultural scientists to detect gene defects in livestock before they can reproduce.
- Transgenic technology in animal production not only improves protein gains, but also provides therapeutic proteins for humans, such as lactoferrin and serum albumin.
As meat recalls and foodborne illnesses continue to make world headlines, food safety in the meat industry represents a top concern for consumers, regulatory agencies and all those involved in providing the public with safe and nutritious meat products.