Beef fat does not raise blood cholesterol. In fact, its effects are equal to that of a diet of chicken or beans. Those are the findings of researchers from the University of Alberta, Canada.

The Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science (DAFN) study involved nine subjects consuming diets designed to simulate those of typical Canadians with consistent total fat levels making up 36% of calories. The highest beef fat diets included consumption of 8 oz. of beef products every day.

Researcher Margaret French says public perception is that beef in the diet raises blood cholesterol levels because some of its fatty acids are saturated. She reports, however, that even when the research subjects ate beef twice a day, “their total and LDL blood cholesterol levels were the same as when eating a diet of primarily chicken, beans and pulses (legumes).”

French explains that saturated fat is a mixture of different saturated fatty acids. Researchers have found that not all saturated fatty acids raise cholesterol. In fact, beef fat contains some saturated fatty acids that have been demonstrated not to raise cholesterol.

“In addition, beef fat contains a high proportion of oleic acid, which is also found in olive oil, which does not raise cholesterol,” she says. “Our study's results mean that Canadians can enjoy beef as part of a balanced diet,” French told Canada NewsWire.

Britain continues to be dogged by outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). In May, the government claimed that the FMD battle had been won. Now, experts fear the outbreak will continue until the end of the year.

More than 3.5 million head of livestock had been slaughtered in the United Kingdom as of July 10, affecting 8,635 farms. Meanwhile, officials expect the FMD tab for British taxpayers and farmers to surpass the $6.5 billion spent to deal with the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak.

In addition, more than 1,100 FMD cases have been chronicled in Argentina, where exports have fallen 56% during the first four months of 2001 compared to the same period last year. Argentina recently began an FMD vaccination program aimed at vaccinating 98% of its 50 million cattle. The aim is to achieve the status of “free of foot-and-mouth with vaccination” status within four years.

Meanwhile, the U.S. in late May lifted its 10-week-old ban on imports of animals and raw meat products from EU nations that had no confirmed cases of FMD. It remains in place for Britain, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Greece.

Burger King is requiring stricter animal welfare handling standards of its suppliers. The second largest U.S. hamburger chain announced in late June that its plan calls for announced and unannounced audits of packer and production facilities of its suppliers.

Burger King says it will establish handling guidelines for hogs and cattle, and it will bolster its requirements for poultry. The new rules will take effect Aug. 31.

Which supplier slaughterhouses Burger King will do business with will be determined by internal audits that are to begin by Oct. 31.

A case of BSE has been verified in the Czech Republic. It's the latest outbreak since BSE was found among cattle in France, Spain, Germany and Italy last year.

In early June, a six-year-old cow in the Czech Republic tested BSE positive. The Czech government quickly announced testing of all slaughtered animals more than 30 months of age, the lowest age at which the disease has been found. Under consideration is the testing of all animals more than 30 months of age.

Czech officials say they anticipate no more than a few dozen BSE cases and point to the country's record of nearly 11,000 negatives tests thus far in 2001.

Meanwhile, the British are concerned about cross-contamination in a few of its domestic slaughterhouses. These are facilities that process healthy animals as well as those killed because they're at risk of BSE.

A report from a working group of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences lists two concerns regarding the potential spread of BSE:

  • That some infectious agent may still be active, even after heating to 600þC. As a result, it must be established conclusively that all work services and equipment are not contaminated after the usual cleaning and sterilization procedures.

  • More than 430,000 tons of meat and bone meal and 200,000 tons of tallow are currently in storage awaiting disposal. The concern here is that rodents or invertebrates may leak it into the environment.

The Canadian Cattle Identification Program moved to the packer level in July. The industry-developed program, which became mandatory on Jan. 1, required all cattle in Canada to be tagged with an approved Canadian Cattle Identification Agency eartag by the time the cattle left their herd of origin. Last month. By July, all cattle had that already moved beyond their herd of origin were to be tagged before moving further.

As of July 1, packing plants are required to read all tags and transfer that information to the carcass. They're also required to maintain that identity to the point of carcass inspection.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail