March 4th, 2010
06:32 PM ET

Evening Buzz: How Safe is Your Food?

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

A Department of Agriculture veterinarian alleges officials at the agency failed to act on reports of illegal and unsafe slaughterhouse practices and just didn't want to deal with the trouble.

"They said there was no way that I could have seen what I actually did see. In the end, they told me I either had to transfer or I would be terminated. I was told to immediately leave the plant, to never come back, " Dr. Dean Wyatt testified on Capitol Hill today about one such incident.

Wyatt said he saw clear violations of food safety violations, such as butchering of calves that were too weak or sick to stand.

When meat from sick animals gets in the food supply that's how you can get sick. Food-borne illnesses cost the U.S. $152 billion a year, according to a new study released today by a former Food and Drug Administration economist.

The research suggests 76 million food-related illnesses each year, leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.

Tonight on the program, we'll dig deeper on this threat. Anderson is talking with Robert Kenner, director of the eye-opening documentary "Food, Inc." Kenner reveals how your food makes it to the supermarket and what he shares may just kill your appetite. Anderson will also talk with Top Chef's Tom Colicchio for tips on eating well without hurting your wallet.

We also have an exclusive report tonight that reveals the secrets of the anthrax suspect. You'll hear from the addiction counselor of Bruce Ivins. As you may remember, Ivins was suspected of being the man behind the deadly anthrax mailing is in the days after the 9/11 attacks. Ivins took his own life in July 2008 just as the FBI was closing in and about to indict him. Ivins was a microbiologist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Ivins' counselor says he had problems with vodka and pill. Tonight, the counselor reveals shocking details on Ivins state of mind in those days leading up to him killing himself.

We will also continue our special series "Cost of Entry". As we've been reporting, the Center for Responsive Politics says 237 members of congress are millionaires. That's 44 percent of both houses and a few are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. But not every representative is rolling in dough. We'll introduce you to a Congressman who's saving cash by sleeping in his office on a cot. He has his supporters, but some question whether it's all a stunt. We'll let you be the judge.

Join us for these stories and more at 10 p.m. ET. See you then!

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I control what is eaten in our home and not in someone elses restuarant. Too many people take the easy way out due to their busy schedule, however it's not the healthiest way.

    March 5, 2010 at 10:04 am |
  2. beerman

    I work at a brewery in the states. We always knew in advance when the inspectors are coming and we stop production to clean.

    March 5, 2010 at 5:20 am |
  3. Janos

    All Hail the Corporatocracy, big business owns everything, including your food, your health, and your future.

    March 5, 2010 at 5:19 am |
  4. Steven J Troxell

    I've watched this film about 6 times now.. and each time it makes me feel better about how I avoid terrible practices such as the film shows..

    I may have a hard time finding decent food, but I do not want to participate in how the food industry runs.. everyone needs to watch this film.. everything is terrible and no one cares about it. STOP BEING LAZY. CHANGE REGULATION. This is honestly just as important as issues within health care.. and MANY more issues..

    March 5, 2010 at 5:16 am |
  5. Janos

    Our Government really needs to subsidize the development of cost effective In Vitro Meat technology, we can cultivate and grow tissue in a vat and not only is that more sanitary and more sustainable it's also more humane.

    For those who don't know In Vitro Meat is grown by taking cells from an animal and placing them in a controlled environment where they can grow and multiply without harming the animal. It can be conditioned to have the same consistency as regular meat. So far production has been proof of concept but the concept has been proven, hurdles are being addressed.

    If you don't want to eat Vat Grown meat you don't have to but that's no reason the rest of us shouldn't have it. If clearly labeled I suspect many would prefer it simply because it's more humane.

    March 5, 2010 at 5:15 am |
  6. chuck

    it is not all that surprising that these vile acts are taking place, as ghastly as they are, but what we should note is that these acts are taking place while we have a whole federal government staff in charge of making sure such acts don't happen. this is the same federal government planning all sorts of departments to oversea all healthcare in America! now... that is scary! i don't want to see animals handled in this fashion, but i certainly don't want to see the elderly, deemed no longer economically useful, to be treated this way. the only relative of mine that i don't trust is Uncle Sam. he's never done anything to make me think that i should.

    March 5, 2010 at 4:28 am |
  7. Cheyne Ferrara

    Proud vegan here! It's in everyone's best interest to eat more vegetables and eat less meat! Great information, thanks CNN!

    March 5, 2010 at 4:24 am |
  8. zach pop

    LISTEN HERE The United States does not care about any of us, unless we are big business. Livestock farms are big business in America, and they are hardly regulated. The only way to send a message is to go VEGAN and try your hardest to buy locally grown produce do it for yourself/health and for our nations people. A lot will be proven by closing your wallets and putting down your steak knives in America.


    March 5, 2010 at 3:36 am |
  9. Jon


    March 5, 2010 at 3:07 am |
  10. Carlos Rich

    Anderson, I'm community organizer, working with worker, who work in processing plants and I believe that if we strengthen worker and give them the tools to protect themselves; then we can accomplish many things, such as, safe food and better treatment of animals. I think we can hold these big corporations accountable for the way they practice business. I believe, that safe workers, could lead to safe foods and safe treatment of animals.
    Carlos, Iowa

    March 5, 2010 at 2:43 am |
  11. carol ryan

    The USA has been factory farming for over 40 years and we still are allowing the slaughter of animals to remain unhumane. Is it any wonder why we are all sick with cancer due to the way our animals fed and live.

    Fast food burgers are causing this horrid demand worldwide and we can't get enough. People don't realize the less is moret theory. Good meals with kidney beans, tomato,and noodles have as much protein and cause fewer heart problems than beef.

    Those rib meals and 1 llb or more hamburgers are killing us.

    Thanks to Anderson Cooper for delving into this. I hope more will come out.

    March 5, 2010 at 2:41 am |
  12. Dawn Nair

    Hi Anderson, I live in South Africa and watch your program every am. It is scary to think that this sort of stuff goes on regarding treatment of animals.

    However, at least in America there are laws which can kick into gear to stop the abuse of animals. In South Africa we have very few laws concerning this, and those that are there are very often blatantly ignored.

    Take for example "Electric Shock Collars, Frequency Collars & Spray Collars" for dogs that are sold quite openly in South Africa.

    There are no laws to stop this.

    Thank you for an amazing program that educates the masses.

    March 5, 2010 at 2:19 am |
  13. tami boudreau

    Bravo to Anderson Cooper for stepping out, airing this program and educating consumers on this very important issue!!! THANK YOU!!!

    March 5, 2010 at 2:18 am |
  14. Sabrina in Los Angeles

    KOSHER...that is all I am saying.

    March 5, 2010 at 2:00 am |
  15. David, Indiana

    The best moment in the health care story so far was when the President went to the Republican party, and had that meeting. It was what needed to happen and more communication is needed. The important thing though is that President Obama owned up to it being his responsibility as President to have the Republican Leadership over for regular meetings.

    I do feel that the Republican Party owes President Obama commensurate honesty and accessibility. Maybe this is a sticking point.

    March 5, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  16. Carrie

    Yes organic foods are more expensive HOWEVER I spend WAY less money buying all organics or local than when I shop at the regular supermarket. When you shop at the average supermarket you end up buying boxes of processed filler foods that have absolutely NO nutritional value and as well they line the pockets of large corporations. Buying organic means buying fresh healthy foods that may cost a little more per item, however you spend less because you don't have 10 isles of boxed granola bars, cereals and frozen items to contend with. In addition, you put money back into a sustainable food system.

    March 5, 2010 at 1:52 am |
  17. Tiffany

    These issues are getting worst and they are not going to get better especially with mass amount of overconsumption in this world. My family and I have been talking about transitioning to vegetarian diets. I am definitely learning to cook vegetarian, I have not seen the documentary "Food Inc" and I just watched the documentary "The Cove" I don't think I can watch another story of how we abuse and slaughter animals, Its sickening and heartbreaking, I do not understand people, it makes me sad, and I am scared to buy any meat products from my local grocery store. I know we need certain types of protein to break down other nutrients and I am doing my best to learn how we get these without eating meat, if anyone has any suggestions I am game.

    March 5, 2010 at 1:41 am |
  18. Kobi Worsley

    PETA has tried to WARN consumers of the brutality of animals in meat markets FOREVER. I say go vegan and out with the meat!!

    March 5, 2010 at 1:13 am |
  19. Chris Jones

    I was stationed in England from 1989-1993 during the outbreak of Mad Cow disease. All GI's and their families who lived in the UK during this time are prevented still today (2010) from giving blood.

    Imagine what would happen if this disease were to show up in the U.S. – following the same rules, no one could give blood. What would that do for our country and those who need this life saving thing.

    Food for thought.

    March 5, 2010 at 1:13 am |
  20. Judy Garner

    It is about time that CNN covered a news story about the unhealthy and shockingly cruel practices of factory farming featured in the film "Food Inc." However, I was gravely disappointed that your coverage emphasized the usual egocentric attitude that the main concern is for the health and well-being of humans. We humans have caused the unhealthy conditions that are not only threatening to destroy ourselves but also this planet and other life forms that are at the mercy of a self-centered, overpopulating Homo sapiens. Please emphasize also the SICK abuse and insanely cruel treatment of billions of poor animals whose short little lives are nothing but a wretched hell full of misery, fear, and pain just so people can eat more and more meat for a fraction of what our parents paid for their grocery bills. Many people rationalize that they can't afford to pay more for food if raising and slaughtering them humanely costs more, yet the masses spend a disproportionate amount of their income on beauty products, clothes, vacations, sports, other entertainment, too many cars, big screen TVs, etc. We need to get our priorities straight and be moral, caring people. We need to care for other living things. It's not all about us!

    March 5, 2010 at 12:26 am |
  21. kenneth Tew


    I am a cattle rancher in Oregon. I was insulted by your report which is full of half truths and very far from the real picture. I have always thought you were a reporter who reported fairly. But obviously I misread you. Your forgot to do your homework

    I and all of the ranchers I know do not condone anyone who abuses their livestock., or any animal
    Your report tonight makes it look like we abuse our cattle and all beef in the US is unsafe. Totally wrong.
    We produce the best healthiest meat in the world.

    Yes their are people that abuse the cattle and the industry itself. Just like reporters who report without the facts.
    Because we know their are abuses, the majority of ranchers in the US take substantial steps to prevent the abuses you are reporting

    On our ranch We raise healthy , hormone free, antibiotic free, and mostly grass fed beef. We market our beef based on its marbeling and tenderness and health benefits.Cattle under stress do not produce tender beef .Our cows are very special to us and we take pride in their health.
    Those abuses you see are a small minority of the people who raise livestock in this country. Mr kenner's remarks about the conditions cattle live in , and yours about them not living on beautiful pastures. Maybe in some cases., , but their are those pristine places too ( i will send you pictures that show the otherside to this so called story of yours).... One other thing . Mr Kenner's remark of how your hamburger comes from 10,000 cows ?? We sell hamburger too .... comes from 1animal. When that is gone, we select one more.
    You reported one part, now do your homework and report the rest

    March 5, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  22. inde

    So glad I chose to be a veg. I wish people would think about the
    suffering that goes in to their choice to eat meat. I pray st francis
    is at the pearly gates when those horrible workers and slaughter
    house owners try to enter heaven. In the meantime, they should
    be jailed for many years. What a disgrace to humanity they are!

    March 5, 2010 at 12:17 am |
  23. Donna Fl.

    *** Naren Koka ***

    Good idea!!

    How about live web cams in all areas if they want to feed the American public! Federal law.

    Thanks Anderson

    Donna Fl

    March 4, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
  24. Kate Geagan

    Great to shine a light on this-but please, don't keep framing the question as "people cannot afford to pay more for food". For over 80% of Americans, that simply isn't true-they choose to consume things like Tivo or iTunes, and then say they "have no money to buy better groceries". Fact: Americans spend less than 10% of every dollar they earn on their food-that is less than any other country in the world as a percentage of income, and the lowest % Americans have ever spent in history. Are you saying the richest country in the world cannot afford to feed itself? Not true. Framing it in that way perpetuates the myth that we are entitled to ridiculously cheap food-rather than asking about why we value price above all else.

    March 4, 2010 at 11:58 pm |
  25. Greg Turner

    I saw FOOD, Inc last week and was handed the book behind the movie: Micheal Pollan's – The OMNIVORE'S DILEMMA.

    While I have usually eaten "pretty clean," avoiding pork for 4 years, coffee, and mostly non-processed foods, eating an occassional 'clean-steak' once a week, I thought I knew that certain foods were bad. However, I had no idea just how bad 95% of our "super-market/ Industrial food really was until I saw the movie and read the book this past week.

    The book is a "Life-Changer" and you will alter your eating patterns quite a bit...its really scary out there...

    NO WONDER AMERICANS are so FAT and SICK! We are being "fattened and poisoned" all at the same time, in the name of greedy profit, cheap prices and convenience...But, alas, just how cheap is food that is making us sick costing? Just how convenient is 'fast food' when it sends us to the Doctor, the hospital and forces us to take more drugs,etc.

    This is just another key indicator of how BIG BIZ and GREED has pushed us over the cliff...

    Things must change fast, OR--

    March 4, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  26. Stephanie

    What about animal cruelty?! I understand the meat itself isn't safe for us to eat because of the conditions the animal is kept in.. but is it necessary to shock the cow and pull its ears and knock it over and scream at it before it's killed? And what about chickens, too? This makes me want to become a vegetarian.

    March 4, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  27. Lynette F

    If this isn't reason enough for everyone to become a vegetarian, I don't know what is. I became a vegetarian 15 yrs. ago for human reasons, not health reasons but the health reasons have become such a huge benefit that I honestly can't understand why more people don't do it! After a week or 2, you stop craving meat & actually get sick at the thought of it. You no longer feel like you have a brick in your gut after eating. Your skin & nails become much healthier. You drop weight like crazy & maintain it while eating til you're stuffed! You look & feel better. It's the way we were meant to eat. Why not give it a try? The way that animals are treated during the whole process of raising food is so inhumane that I get nauseus just thinking about it. I can't understand why the gov't doesn't enact tougher laws to govern the treatment of these poor souls. I'm so glad that more & more people are becoming enlightened about this issue & changing. Thx for the story, plz bring more on this sad, necessary issue.

    March 4, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  28. Dominic

    I have toured many packing plants and cattle feedlots as well as farms and the majority of producers/farmers take pride in their product and strive to supply the safest product they can. I know on rare occasions an animal may be mistreated, but those companies that do that tend not to be in business very long. If you would do your research you would find out that a producer has to take very good care of an animal in order to be profitable, any stress on a production animal and the animal will lose weight (Loss of weight=Loss of Profit, hence not being in business very long). We as Americans are very fortunate to have the safest and most economical food supply in the world. I would venture to guess that very few, if any Americans would be willing to put in the time, dedication, and hard work that the American farmer/rancher has put into producing what we all eat.

    March 4, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  29. DianneA

    Thank you SO much for talking about this issue! To add, a high taste and mega nutrition meal for pennies per serving can be had by learning to make broth.. Buy your cuts of meat as whole as possible (chicken, fish, or beef) disassemble it yourself, and simmer down the extra. It's great for you and saves lots of money with a little planning! You can afford better food if you know how to make the best use of it. Becoming aware of the reality of our system is important since our current one leaves our food security's fate in the hands of a select few mega-corps.. this isn't just unhealthy, it's dangerous. I would be very surprised if they have our (consumers) best interest at heart since under the current circular system that funnels money from mega corp to mega corp, they make billions. Keep up the good work! 🙂
    Much love,

    March 4, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  30. Auset Dubois

    Hi Anderson, Fantastic to see you covering this very important topic!
    I had seen some videos showing the aweful state of our countries large meat farming factories. The conditions are horrible and the inhumane treatment of these living animals is extreme. When people eat this meat not only are they possibly exposed to E-coli but, all the fear and pain vibrations of these animals, plus all the release of hormones due to this.
    Chickens are kept in cages so crowded that they cut off all their beaks
    so they can't peck each other! Did you know that Europe countries will not accept our chickens that are rinsed in Bleach! And much more
    That the cows mourn their babies taken away after birth to be thrown in a pen for veal.They get no exercise and are usually lame when ready for slaughter. Is this right?

    There is in fact protein in vegetables. I eat mostly fruit and vegetables
    a bit of jasmine rice, cage free og eggs,salmon ( only wild Alaskan)
    occ. a bit of other fish. I drink OG Almond milk.

    March 4, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  31. Greg Turner

    1-The Food industry, along with the pharma/chemical companies are killing us, and the animals and the water, soil and air. Big Ag Biz is an energy hog – 35-38 gallons of oil per beef cattle, that's close to a barrel.

    2- Beef cattle is basically Corn 2, a "commodity corn" and petro-chemicals- an incredible amount...of "oil" and nat gas goes into the food side (drugs, sprays, ferts, ) and uses a lot for the transport.
    3- All those cows put out a lot of meth gas –
    4- The overall impact of eating the poisonous foods, like beef, pork and chicken from the industrial food chain, is causing 2/3's of the the illness/health issues affecting AMERICANS!
    5-We are cruel to the animals, and this cruelty is reflected in our culture...

    Eat less beef, pork and chicken – and many things, including our foreign exchange and reliance of foreign oil improve, along with our health and the environment...Its such a no-brainer, yet we have lulled/lured into thinking that cheapness and convenience are good things, even when they are fast-destroying our lives and the Earth.

    March 4, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  32. Darren

    First I will reply to elverina....if you want to rant, please have some facts about the situation. No hormones are placed on the feed, they would be digested and passed through the animal having no effect. The hormones are injected into the ear of the animal in a long acting time released form, a portion of the animal that is not consumed by humans. Hormone related conditions in humans are more likely to be caused by the levels of hormones from birth control pills that are not removed from municipal drinking water systems. If you don't believe me, look up the research.

    March 4, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
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