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By Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

California poultry giant Foster Farms has joined the flock of meat companies eschewing the use of antibiotics, pledging to eliminate all those used to combat infection in humans.

The company’s promise comes ahead of Tuesday’s White House forum on the use of antibiotics, and amid rising concern that use of the drugs to raise livestock has aided the proliferation of resistant strains of bacteria among humans.

More than 2 million people in the U.S. are infected with such strains annually, and at least 23,000 die as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our company is committed to responsible growing practices that help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for human health and medicine,” Foster Farms Chief Executive and President Ron Foster said.

Although over-prescription of antibiotics to humans has been a long-term driver of drug-resistant strains, antibiotic use for animals also has been linked to resistant strains of salmonella and campylobacter.

Foster Farms introduced two new antibiotic-free product lines in April: Certified Organic and Simply Raised.

The company has eliminated all antibiotics that the U.S. Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration deem critical to human medicine, said company spokesman Ira Brill.

“We have a long-term goal of fully eliminating all antibiotics that are used in the practice of human medicine,” he said.

Brill said he could not offer a timeline for a complete elimination of antibiotics that also are prescribed to humans. “I don’t think we can put a date on that except to say that we are aggressively working towards that goal,” he said.

The company is researching alternative practices to improve overall flock health, Brill said. “As you continue to improve bird health, then your need for antibiotics declines,” he said.

ConAgra to pay $11.2 million to settle salmonella criminal case

Foster’s change of heart about antibiotics follows shifts away from use of human antibiotics by fellow poultry giant Perdue, as well as retail food chains McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle and Panera, among others.

The CEO of Sanderson Farms, however, told the Wall Street Journal recently that he has no plans to move away from antibiotics.

Consumer pressure for antibiotics-free meat has intensified over the last several years. Sales of organic beef, pork, poultry and fish increased 11 percent from 2012 to 2013, to $675 million, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group pushing to limit use of the drugs.

Jonathan Kaplan, director of the group’s food and agriculture program, credited Foster Farms for being “on track and heading in the right direction.”

But the company’s announcement “is not quite as robust as what Perdue has already accomplished or what Tyson has pledged to do,” Kaplan said. “They still have committed to moving away from the medically important antibiotics, and that’s the main concern.”

About a third of the broiler chickens produced now are raised with tight restrictions on antibiotic use, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“We definitely feel like we are hitting a tipping point for antibiotic stewardship in the poultry industry,” Kaplan said. “This is more than a microtrend. This is a tsunami.”

Foster Farms, which employs about 12,000 people nationally and has sales of $2.7 billion, is based in Livingston, Calif., about 65 miles east of San Jose, and operates five production facilities in the state as well as numerous ranches.

The company has battled back from a 2013 outbreak of salmonella that sickened hundreds of people in 2013, as well as a more recent cockroach infestation and rash of food safety citations at its Livingston plant.

Since then, it has revamped its food safety procedures. Measured salmonella prevalence on poultry at Foster facilities is now well below USDA and industrywide standards, Brill said.

“If you look back on the food safety issues, that was an area where we probably satisfied ourselves with being average — and we realized you cannot lead in a lot of areas if you don’t lead in all areas,” Brill said. “Right now, consumers can look at Foster Farms as about the safest chickens you can buy.”

Photo: No more drugs in your food? Major win. Creativity103 via Flickr

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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