Tag Archives: Conagra

The Past Sins of Conagra

I realize that there is a possibility that any salmonella outbreak is likely to fall into that small percentile of probability where coincidences occur, and bad stuff sometimes just happens. There is no such thing as a perfect system, and there’s no way to manage mistake-free workplaces. As anyone who works in the Quality and Safety industries can assure you, even in the best of environments, sometimes bad things happen.

Now, that being said, let me put out the following pieces of information:

  • July, 2002 – ConAgra Foods Inc. recalled 19 million pounds of ground beef and beef products nationwide after at least 16 people became ill with E. coli bacteria-related diseases from eating meat packaged at the company’s Colorado plant.
  • December, 2002 – ConAgra voluntarily recalls approximately 36,000 pounds of fully-cooked, frozen chicken products that may be contaminated with plastic.
  • June, 2003- ConAgra Poultry is recalling 129,000 pounds of chicken due to fears that a number of products may contain glass.
  • December, 2005- Almost 3,000,000 pounds of 2.6-ounce packages of Armour Lunch Makers Cracker Crunchers made with ham, bologna, turkey, and chicken are recalled when it is discovered they may be contaminated with listeria. Conagra owns these brands.
  • February, 2007 – That’s right, just this past Tuesday ConAgra recalled more than 400,000 pounds of pasta and meatball meals that may have been underprocessed.
  • February, 2007 – Conagra recalls peanut butter that contains salmonella.

My question is thus: At what point does the above behavior describe a negligent corporate culture rather than simple “bad luck”?

My Second question is: At what point do we, as consumers, start punishing companies who have these issues? And I don’t mean simply stop buying Peter Pan peanut butter (which will occur anyways, by virtue of the recent salmonella news stories). I mean the collective “we” figuring out “Well huh, these guys kinda suck when it comes to producing safe food for consumption. Not only will we stop eating their Peter Pan peanut butter, but also their Orville Redenbacher Popcorn, their Reddi-Whip Whipped cream, their Slim Jim’s, ad infinitum and (literally) ad nauseum.

Sadly, I don’t think the answer to the second question is “soon”. Most people probably aren’t even aware of Conagra, let alone the products they sell.

tags technorati : Food Safety, Conagra

Food Politics redux

In my recent post linking to Mark Morford’s most excellent column about supermarkets, a reader commented the following:

What does republican have to do with this rant – albeit his point is an excellent one, why politicize it? The dems have taken lots of money from the Safeway/Vons/Albertsons of the world. Starbucks – the Safeway of the coffe industry – is all Dem. So not sure why you have to politicize this. Get over it.

Let me address the statement “not sure why you have to politicize this”, by offering the following links:

  • Washington Post

Now at first glance at the headlines, these stories look as if there’s a group of people simply offering a different perpsective on the obesity epidemic. But when you get into the details of these stories, something becomes very clear. Restaurants and other members of the food industry understand that when people talk of healthy eating, it will affect their bottom line. A smaller bottom line means disappointed investors and stock owners, which means a lower stock price. These companies have a vested interest in preventing people from eating healthy. This is why they have started giving money to lobbying group called the Center for Consumer Freedom .

This group, which also has lobbied for the tobacco industry, is run by Richard Berman, who also happens to own Berman & Co a public affairs group. He also founded two other restaurant-supported groups: the American Beverage Institute, which fights restrictions on alcohol use, and the Employment Policies Institute Foundation, which has argued against raising the minimum wage. For a heads-on review of just who Richard Berman is, read this.

The end result of this? One needs only to look as far as Pennsylvania’s proposed legislation (warning…snarky sign-in required).

My point to ALL of this? I politicize because I feel it’s best to point these things out. I politicize, because the people to whom I give my money politicize. All I ask for is a little transparency. I tihnk it’s important to know that the major players in the food chain…the Monsantos, the Conagras, the Safeways, often make decisions that have the stockholders of these companies in mind, rather than the purveryors of their services…the consumer.

Knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but a lack of knowledge? Even moreso.

Thanks for U.S. Food Policy for the heads up. Book mark his site fer cryin’ out loud

Food Politics: Mad Cow and Corporations

I feel dirty. As if I had just wrestled with a pig.

It always happens when I research just a little bit too much. I read the one article that leads to another which leads me to yet another which paints a picture that quite simply, disturbs me.

Case in point: I’ve been reading up on Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or commonly mad cow disease). I felt it prudent, as it had been in the news of late, even over a year since the last reported instance of it being found in here in the States. I felt that if I was to talk about beef, then I owed it to at least pay this topic some lip service, at most perhaps give a decent post on the how’s and why’s.

Even at the most cursory level, it becomes rather apparent that this is a hot political issue, thanks in large part to the fact that it Mad Cow disease shows the lack of financial resources being applied to even effectively test to see how prevelant (or not) the disease has taken hold. It also helps clealy illustrate (to borrow a phrase from Christine Wenc) on how this is yet another example of “Big-Evil-Industry Trashes All It Surveys in Order to Profit a Handful of White Guys and Blanket the Earth with Cheap Consumer Goods”.

For those of you not paying attention, what you should know is this: corporate meat processing plants are under-regulated. Federal meat inspectors, as recently as December 8th or 2004, say that current USDA policies on Mad Cow threaten public health. If ever there was a product that you needed to be fully educated on before purchasing, it’d be beef. I could go in greater detail, but rather I’d recommend you read Fast Food Nation for a basic understanding of meat processing, and then read this, this and even these articles.

The point of me linking to all of these articles is not scare you. The chance of someone contracting diseases associated with BSE is small, smaller than say getting e-coli poisoning or even listeria. No, the reason for me posting these links is to ensure a more informed beef consumer. Why? Consider the table below comparing American cattle testing guidlines for BSE against the European Unions Guidelines for testing , (provided by Friends of the Earth)

How does the U.S. testing compare to the E.U. testing?

  • Cattle testing:
    United States -2% of high-risk downers tested; no required testing of other cattle
    brought to slaughter.
    European Union -100% of downers tested; 100% of all cattle over 24 months of age that are brought to slaughter.
  • High-risk tissue in meat for human consumption:
    United States -Brain and spinal cord tissue in 35% of low-quality meats; spinal cord may not be removed from better cuts; stunning methods drive brain tissue into lungs and body.
    European Union -Brain, spinal cord, eyes and tonsils from all cattle > 12 months of age prohibited from human food supply; high-risk stunning methods banned.
  • Animal feed restrictions:
    United States -Partial prohibition allows cattle tissue to be fed to chickens, pigs, horses and vice versa; and cattle blood to be fed to calves.
    European Union -More restrictive feed bans generally prohibit the feeding of animal tissues, whether ruminant or not, to all animals raised for food.
  • Use of cattle blood as feed for calves:
    United States -No prohibition; accepted industry practice.
    European Union -Authorities strongly discourage the practice.

(Data comes from this pdf from the Friends of the World)

Again, my purpose here is not to dissuade people from eating beef, but to make better informed decisions when it comes to purchasing the product.

So why do I feel dirty? Because I came across a dis-information campaign. Remember that this is a highly charged political topic. If BSE were ever to be documented as being found in the US, it would play havoc with the Beef industry, an industry with a fair amount of lobbying clout, especially with the Republicans.

The disinformation comes from two sites. One BSEinfo, is run by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board & National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. They have a vested interest in their product and obviously will provide information that will make it appear as if they are doing everything they can in order to prevent an outbreak of any disease related to BSE.

The other site is called mad-cow-facts.com, and at first appears to give opinions on news events surrounding BSE, slanting their coverage in facor of the cattle associations and other corporations which support the meat processing industry. The site is funded by an organization called The Center for Global Food Issues, which appears to give it an air of authority. But further digging shows that CGFI is funded by the Hudson Institute, a neo-conservative think tank. Accoriding to Source watch, this institute has been funded by such corporations as ConAgra, McDonalds, Monsanto and other corporations infamous for putting profit over public welfare. All of these industries have a vested interest in ensuring a profitable beef industry.

When I discovered that is when I started to feel dirty.

Look, when it comes to beef, be sensible. If you’re concerned about BSE but want to still eat beef, keep the following pieces of advice in mind:

  • - know your butcher: They should be able to tell you where the beef was raised and slaughtered, and will have no problem is fulfilling specific meat requests.
  • - know where your beef comes from: If you have the ability to find out where your meat was processed as well as where it was raised, it will probably mean that they have stronger controls on what herds they had come from.
  • - have your butcher grind your meat on site: This will prevent less mixing of carcasses, which will help prevent cross contamination
  • - buy pasture/grass fed over grain fed: This lower the probability of purchasing corporate meat. This will also lower the chance that your meat comes from a cow or calf that was fed on blood.
  • - purchase organic meat: This also lower the probability of purchasing corporate meat.

Most of all, know your product. I’ve said it twice in this piece, and I’ll say it one last time to drive the point home. Be a responsible consumer. Educate yourself as to what you are buying.

Food and Political Contributions

I know that the past election hit some sore spots with various members of the food blogs. And so, I offer the following information to do with as you please.

It’s a list of major corporations and the percentage of their political donations that went to republican candidates or causes.

And in case you were wondering, I went over to Politcal Money Line to find any corporation that gave 80% or more over their political contributions to democrats…and found none.


Flowers Industries (100%) – food maker, mostly of well-known bakery products like the following bread brands: Flowers, Nature’s Own, Sunbeam, Bunny, Dandee, Cobblestone Mill, Holsum, Mary Jane, Evangeline Maid, and ButterKrust. Flowers also sells snack cakes and pastries under these brands: BlueBird, Mrs. Freshley’s, Bishop’s. Its frozen bakery products are sold under the European Bakers brand.

Outback Steakhouse (96%) – restaurant chainsm, including Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Lee Roy Selmon’s, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Bonefish Grill, Roy’s, Paul Lee’s Chinese Kitchen and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.

Wendy’s International (93%) – fastfood chain including Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers, Tim Hortons, Baja Fresh Mexican Grill (with investments in Cafe Express and Pasta Pomodoro).

Darden Restaurants Inc. (90%) – Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Smokey Bones BBQ and Grill, Bahama Breeze.

Smithfield Foods Inc. (88%) – food products; Smithfield (hams, deli), Farmfield Foods, Gwaltney, John Morrell & Co., Patrick Cudahy, Cumberland Gap, Krakus Foods, Stefano Foods

Conagra Foods (83%) – ACT II (popcorn), Andale Gourmet, Andy Capp’s snacks, Angela Mia (pasta and sauces), Armour (hot dogs, meats, etc.), Award (side dishes), Banquet (frozen meals), Big Mama Sausage, Blue Bonnet (margerine, spreads), Butterball (turkey products), Chef Boyardee, Chun King (noodles and other Chinese food products), Cook’s Hams, County Line (cheese), Crunch ‘n Munch, Culturelle (food supplement), DAVID (sunflower seeds), Decker (meats), Dennison’s (chili), Eckrich (meats), Egg Beaters (egg substitue), Fernando’s (Mexican entrees), Firecracker (hot sausage), Fleishmann’s (spreads and oils), Gebhart (texmex), Gilardi Foods (Italian foods), Golden Cuisine (senior meals), Gilrot (powders and spices), Gulden’s (mustard), Healthy Choice (frozen foods and other diet foods), Hunt’s (ketchup and tomato products), Hunt’s Snack Pack (pudding), JSH/J. Hungerford Smith (syrups), Jiffy Pop, Kid Cuisine, Knott’s Berry Farm (jams), La Choy, Lamb Weston (potato products), Libby’s (meats), Life Choice, Lightlife (soy products), Longmont, Louis Kemo Foodservice, Luck’s (beans, etc.), Lunch Makers, MaMa Rosa’s (Italian foods), Manwich, Margherita (Italian meats), Maria Callender’s (frozen dinners), Meridian (shrimp and shellfish), Move Over Butter, Oldham’s Farm, Orville Redenbacher’s, PAM (cooking sprays), Parkay, Patio (tex-mex dinners), Pemmican (jerkies), Penrose (meats), Peter Pan (peanut butter), Ranch Style (beans), Ready Crisp (Armour dinners), Reddi-wip (whipped cream), Ro*Tel (canned tomatos), Rosarita (Mexican meals and products), Singleton (seafood), Slim Jim, Swiss Miss (hot cocoa), Van Camp’s (pork and beans), Webber Farms, Wesson (oils), Wolf Brand (chili), Wolfgang Pucks (meals).

This info was pulled from DailyKos