HIGHTOWER: Zapping Meat

If you abuse a circus elephant, if you run a pet shop that sells a calico cat without a license or if you're a farmer who markets a potato that's too small, the US Department of Agriculture can fine you.But if huge meat companies like Tyson chicken or Iowa Beef Processors ship a load containing such deadly contaminants as E.coli bacteria, the Ag Department has no authority to impose even a token fine, to require the company to recall the contaminated meat or even to tell you and me that the bad stuff is out there in fast food chains, schools and other places where our families might be eating it.So, after it was discovered this summer that a Nebraska company had distributed two million pounds of bad burgers containing E.coli and that our watchdog agency was essentially toothless, finally the Ag Department has proposed legislation allowing it to mandate recalls and impose serious fines. But instead of welcoming this consumer protection, the Congress has condemned it as [quote] "unnecessary government intrusion" into the meat business.Instead of fining the perpetrators -- or, better yet, outlawing the factory-feeding processes that cause these lethal diseases -- the Congress and meat-industry lobbyists want to "solve" the contamination problem by zapping our dinner with another contaminant: Radiation. [Zaps] If they have their way, every chicken and every burger will get a dose of radioactive Cobalt 60.Not to worry, they promise us -- it's no worse than an x-ray of your teeth. But wait -- notice that the dentist covers you in a lead apron when your teeth are x-rayed, and the dentist always leaves the room! Well, they say, the meat doesn't actually become radioactive -- the zapping process just changes its DNA.This is Jim Hightower saying ... Changes its DNA? To fight this irradiation insanity, call Food & Water on 1-800-EAT SAFE.For more information:Food & Water: 1-800-EAT-SAFESource:"US seeks new power to regulate meat safety" by Jerry Gray. New York Times: Oct. 9, 1997. "Senators sidetrack beef recall." Reuters. on ABC News web site: Oct.9, 1997. "Irradiation urged as alternative." Associated Press: Oct. 2, 1997. "Better options available" by Michael Jacobson. USA Today: Oct. 2, 1997.

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