In reading the New York Times today I came across an article buried deep with in the bowels of the paper that I found more than a little troubling. The article entitled Agency Approves First Use of Viruses as a Food Additive is about the first-ever ruling yesterday from the Food and Drug Administration that says
a mix of bacteria-killing viruses can be safely sprayed on cold cuts, hot dogs and sausages to combat common microbes that kill hundreds of people a year…
The combination of six viruses is designed to be sprayed on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, including sliced ham and turkey, said John Vazzana, president and chief executive officer of manufacturer Intralytix Inc.
These viruses are designed to kill virulent strains of Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that can cause serious infections in pregnant women, newborns and in people with compromised immune systems. According to the CDC, Listeria monocytogenes causes an estimated 2500 people in the United States to become seriously ill each year.
According to the article this viral preparation attacks only the strains of the bacteria that are harmful to humans and nothing else. If Andrew Zajac, a spokesman for the FDA is to be believed, then
”As long as it used in accordance with the regulations, we have concluded it’s safe.”
For some reason I am just not reassured.
The foods mainly affected will be luncheon meats, which will be sprayed with the viral mixture before being packaged, because these items are purchased and typically eaten without being cooked or reheated.
How are these virus mixtures obtained?
The viruses are grown in a preparation of the very bacteria they kill, and then purified. The FDA had concerns that the virus preparation potentially could contain toxic residues associated with the bacteria. However, testing did not reveal the presence of such residues, which in small quantities likely wouldn’t cause health problems anyway, the FDA said.
And most frightening of all
Consumers won’t be aware that meat and poultry products have been treated with the spray, Zajac added. The Department of Agriculture will regulate the actual use of the product.
So, let me make sure I’ve got this straight. Because about 2500 hundred people (out of about 300 million) get sick each year–and not just 2500 random people, but specifically pregnant women, neonates and immunosuppressed people–we all have to live with our luncheon meat sprayed with a viral mixture? A mixture of viruses grown in the very bacteria that they are designed to kill, and with the potential, unless purified very carefully, to contain some of this bacteria. And, the powers that be are going to spray this stuff on and have no package labeling to tell us whether the product we’re buying has been sprayed or not.
Wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier to just warn pregnant women and immunosuppressed people to avoid packaged meats? Who am I forgetting? Oh, yeah, neonates. Now there is a real group to worry about. How many neonates do you suppose consume luncheon meats?
Our government at work. And we all fork over good money for this.