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Consumers Union Offers Advice On Meat Labels That Do And Don’t Help Reduce Risk Of Exposure To Mad Cow Disease


CONTACT:
Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., Director, Eco-labels.org
(646) 594-0212
CONSUMERS UNION OFFERS ADVICE ON MEAT LABELS THAT DO AND DON’T HELP REDUCE RISK OF EXPOSURE TO MAD COW DISEASE
—Unbiased, Trusted Information on Meat Labeling in March Consumer Reports Health “Names and Claims” Feature and on the Web at www.eco-labels.org—

Yonkers, NY—Consumers Union (CU), the independent nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is providing consumers with important information about which meat labels can and cannot help consumers wanting to reduce their risk from mad cow disease.
THE MOST HELPFUL LABELS
Mad cow disease is known to pass from one animal to another through the use of animal by-products in animal feed. Certain labels indicate that animal by-products are not used in the feed that produced the meat. Therefore, meat carrying these labels is very low risk in terms of mad cow disease.
“ORGANIC”– labeled meat provides consumers with the assurance that meat came from a farm that prohibits using animal by-products in the feed for farm animals. All food labeled “organic” must be verified by an independent organization. Visit the www.eco-labels.org for the full CU label report on USDA standards for organic.
“BIODYNAMIC” — labeled meat provides consumers with the assurance that meat came from a farm that prohibits using animal by-products in the feed for farm animals. All food labeled “biodynamic” are also verified. Visit www.eco-labels.org for the full CU label report on Demeter’s Certified Biodynamic label.
In addition, some meat products are labeled as to country of origin. Australia and New Zealand are currently believed to be free of mad cow.
SOMEWHAT HELPFUL LABELS
A number of other labels indicate that meat comes from an animal that was not fed animal by-products, but are not verified by any independent organization. Thus meat carrying these labels may be lower risk, but this is not guaranteed.
“100% GRASS FED” or “GRASS FED ONLY” — labeled meat should have been produced from animals that were fed only grass and therefore, no animal by-products. However, meat products labeled as just “GRASS FED,” without any additional specification, may mean that the animal ate grass for part of its life, but not its whole life. Consumers should therefore contact the farmer or producer and ask whether the animals were also fed animal by-products or rendered animal protein. Unlike the organic label, “grass fed” claims are not necessarily verified by an independent organization unless otherwise specified (e.g. accompanied by a USDA Verified Shield).
“100% GRAIN FED” or “GRAIN FED ONLY” — labeled meat should have been produced from animals that were fed only grain and therefore, no animal by-products. However, meat products labeled as just “GRAIN FED,” without any additional specification, may mean that the animal ate grass for part of its life, but not its whole life. Consumers should therefore contact the farmer or producer and ask whether the animals were also fed animal by-products or rendered animal protein. Unlike the organic label, “grain fed” claims are not necessarily verified by an independent organization unless otherwise specified (e.g. accompanied by a USDA Verified Shield).
“NO ANIMAL BY-PRODUCTS” — labeled meat should have been produced from animals that were fed food without animal by-products. However, unlike the organic or biodynamic labels, “no animal by-products” claims are not necessarily verified by an independent organization unless otherwise specified e.g. accompanied by a USDA Verified Shield).
“100% VEGETARIAN” or “VEGETARIAN FED ONLY”–labeled meat should have been produced from animals that were fed only a vegetarian diet and therefore, no animal by-products. However, meat products labeled as just “VEGETARIAN FED,” without any additional specification, may mean that the animal ate grass for part of its life, but not its whole life. Consumers should therefore contact the farmer or producer and ask whether the animals were also fed animal by-products or rendered animal protein. Unlike the organic label, “grain fed” claims are not necessarily verified by an independent organization unless otherwise specified (e.g. accompanied by a USDA Verified Shield).
LABELS THAT SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON TO REDUCE THE RISK OF EXPOSURE TO MAD COW DISEASE
CAGE FREE
FREE RANGE, FREE RUNNING, FREE ROAMING
GRASS FED (without additional specification such as “only” or “100%)
GRAIN FED (without additional specification such as “only” or “100%)
IRRADIATED, TREATED WITH IRRADIATION (electron beam or gamma)
NATURAL
NO ADDITIVES
NO ANTIBIOTICS CLAIMS
NO CHEMICALS ADDED
NO HORMONES CLAIMS
PASTEURIZED
For more information, see the March issue of Consumer Reports CR Health column “Names and Claims” feature or visit: www.eco-labels.org
Questions about labeling should be directed to Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D. at 646-594-0212
Eco-labels.org Feature Story
www.eco-labels.org/feature.cfm?FeatureID=7
Consumer Reports Mad Cow Updated Alert
http://www.consumerreports.org/static/0312mad0.html
Consumers Union launched www.eco-labels.org in the spring of 2001 to help educate consumers about these labels. Consumers Union believes that the best eco-labels are seals or logos indicating that an independent organization has verified that a product meets a set of meaningful and consistent standards for environmental protection and/or social justice.

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CU OFFERS ADVICE ON MEAT LABELS – 01/04
The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports®, is an expert, independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To maintain our independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the interests of consumers. CU supports itself through the sale of our information products and services, individual contributions, and a few noncommercial grants.

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