Hormones, Antibiotics and Residues: Part 3 – Residues

It is difficult to speak of residues without the accompanying subject of technology being discussed.  Residues was a simpler subject when technology only allowed us to measure in parts per thousand.  With advancing science allowing these residual fractions to be counted as parts per million, they became a much more glamorous subject to speak of.  But now, at a parts per billion level, even the tiniest of residue fractions can be found.

grilled steak on a cutting board

Scientists today are trying to discern if the tiny, tiny fractions are even significant.  I suspect to most of us, they are not.  But, as humans, we have great difficulty separating science from emotion.  Emotion is a feeling, not factually based, that mortal man has battled since time began.  If we (mankind) could but remove the emotion from our decision making, life would be so much simpler with decisions based on fact!

For the sake of simplification, we are going to break the general subject of residues down into two areas:  food science as it relates to contamination, and food science as it relates to chemical residues that continue to reside in a food animal carcass after death.

Let me begin with the words of Curtis L. Kastner, Kansas State University (12/11/2014):

“The Real Story About Food Safety.”

The food supply of the U.S. is among the safest in the world.  Most cases of food-borne disease are traced to improper handling and preparation at the retail, food service level, and home levels—not to the processor. 

         We have failed to teach the more recent generations about proper handling and preparation of food, AND that has complicated the food safety picture, particularly in the home.  Few pre-college students are exposed to good food handling practices and the nutritional benefits of animal products.  Lack of understanding not only affects handling and prep practices, but also perception.

         For example, if consumers don’t understand food, then their perception of its safety and nutritional value will not be as good as it would be if they are informed.  Uninformed consumers are more susceptible to misinformation.  The real story about food safety cannot be effectively communicated to uninformed consumers.

         Closed minded individuals may not change their position as a result of educational efforts.  These individuals see animal agriculture as having a major negative impact.  Food safety may not be their primary agenda, but food safety issues will help them to enlist others in their cause.  To achieve their end, they misrepresent fact to support pre-set agendas”.   THANK YOU DR. KASTNER.

Food safety as it relates to contamination used to be taught in public schools—home economics, in particular.  It used to be taught from grandmother to mother, to daughter.  Our society has changed.  Information regarding proper food preparation and preservation are lost sources of information for the average family.

Dr. Kastner said that food safety cannot be effective communicated to uninformed consumers.  In a very real sense, that appears to be exactly where we are today.  Never have consumers been more vocally engaged, yet never have they been more uninformed regarding the facts. 

Fear of the unknown, no background or knowledge of food safety, and becoming emotionally led by the uninformed, has enabled activists to gain ground toward their own private objectives, relative to the demise of animal agriculture.  How does it feel to be herded around like a bunch of sheep?  You are being told that there is a coyote in the pasture, and not being told there is a cliff (severe drop to certain death) near by.

Consumers and activists alike, I beg of you to pause and consider that our planet’s population will peak in just 34 years.  We will need vastly more food in the near term.  Already, one in seven go to bed hungry across the planet.  That will worsen every year over the next 34 years.  Help agriculture feed this growing population.  With GMO, American agriculture can do just that.  But it won’t happen if you remain uninformed sheep herded by activists, racing toward the cliff!  Think for yourselves; inform yourself.

Education is the answer to most serious problems.  [Enlightenment:  the attainment of pure and qualified knowledge]  Knowledge allows for you personally to receive and accurately process information.  Knowledge typically comes in installments: layers upon layers of foundation materials that were received, analyzed, and filed away as fact.

Receiving rather complex materials without the basis of understanding, simply results in confusion.  Confusion either results in serious effort to attain proper understanding, or results in emotional responses cascading into fear of the unknown.  Where are you?  I offer that you can become educated on the subject, but you must find someone to trust in the meantime.  Some of you can trust the rural producers of beef that you could, with effort, make contact with.  For the rest of you, your protection, your massive safeguard, is the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).  There are not many things I appreciate about a bloated federal government, but the USDA and all of its associated food guardians, are one of them.  They do a great job of looking out for your interests, and I’ll soon disclose a variety of ways you, personally, can contact them with any concern you might have regarding America’s food supply, including beef.

THE SECOND FOOD SAFETY ISSUE relates to chemical residues that continue to reside in a food carcass after death.  [Residue:  something that remains after a part is removed, disposed of, or used; a remainder; a remnant]  If a residue is below the level deemed significant, it is typically recorded, but results in no action being taken.  If it is above that predetermined level, a follow-up action is required.

Meaning, that just because it is a residue, it does not have to be harmful to anyone.  Too many times when individuals hear the term residue, their emotional senses take over and “alarm” is the result.

Each food item has their own specific contaminating residues, including pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.  Relative to beef, that residue is generally of antibiotic or avermectin (deworming agent) source.  Antibiotic residues are simply the “hot topic” today because some individuals have attempted to tie issues in the food animal industry, to a much wider issue involving antibiotic resistance in people.

Were it not for the fact that our world has 24/7, instantaneous world-wide news, every story that involves news, related to antibiotics, would not seem so personally real.  One must remember that emotional issues gather in a much larger audience, than simply relating the facts—at least, hopefully, the facts.  If you are a news service director and you want a large or larger audience, select an emotional topic (one that leads to an emotional response), and hit it hard and often.  Your audience will grow proportionally.

We have become a nation of individuals who base our decisions on emotion—not fact.  Emotionally based decisions often return to us (after the damage has been done) as regrettable decisions.  So, let me begin with some FACTS—taken from the United States National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry, and Egg Product; domestic and import, June 2012.

A total of 211,733 animal analysis’ were made that resulted in 2,043 violations involving 1609 individual animals; some individuals had more than one residue.  Percentage of positive violations would look like this:  adult beef cows (.11%), bulls (.07%), dairy cows (15.00 %), goats (1.78 %), market hogs (.13 %), and steers (.06%).

The presence of neomycin accounted for 25% of the violations, while flunixin accounted for 14%, and penicillin accounted for 14%.  All other categories were smaller.  Most of these violations resulted from inadequate withdrawal time to clear the animal system.  This report is available in its entirety if you should desire to read it.

Dosage, product name, route of administration (IV, SQ, IM, or oral), as per label, is noted, along with the diagnosis that precipitated the treatment.  It is all required, along with the individual ID of the animal treated.  At the feedyard, all records are computerized; post treatment times, follow-ups and withdrawal times are critically well maintained.  Until every individual antibiotic withdrawal period has expired, affected calves cannot leave the feedyard.

Penalties associated with residues are significant.  When federal authorities show up on your premise, you know a come-to-Jesus meeting is about to happen.  The source and causal agent will be identified, and the guilty party appropriately disengaged or punished in a meaningful manner.  These agencies do a great job overseeing that our food sources are safe and wholesome.  These are some of the few tax dollars that are really well spent.

The offices and personnel of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), its Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), as well as the Office of Public Health Science (OPHS), assisted by the National Residue Program (NRP), provide:

  • a structural process for identification and evaluation of chemical compounds used in food animals
  • analyze chemical compounds of concern
  • collect, analyze and report results
  • identify the need for regulatory follow-up

Food safety education is available for anyone who will make the effort.  You can:

  • Get answers at the Food Safety Discovery Zone: foodsafety.gov
  • Down-load educational software
  • From your mobile phone: askkaren.gov
  • Access USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline: 888 674-6854
  • Call Residue Risk Staff: 202 690-6409
  • Email: mphotline.fsis@usda.gov

The residue program as directed and managed by the above, places you in good hands.  Relatively speaking, you are literally surrounded by a thousand things more important to your personal well being, than unsafe beef residues.

Do not for a moment be so naive as to think that you know more about the effects of residues and antibiotic use in food animals, including the issue of resistance, than they do!  It is almost laughable that you have been so led by “activists” who believe that they know something the experts do not.

Gaining knowledge regarding any subject takes effort.  Please, make the effort.  Don’t continue to be led around by activists who always have hidden agendas.