Safety Last

Well, at least they're consistent. The new head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mike Johanns, made it one of his highest priorities to remind California that it has no right to put more stringent warning labels on meat and poultry than the USDA does, even though California voters mandated them through Proposition 65. Johanns also had kind words for the World Organization for Animal Health. For tightening up standards to ensure animals are healthy? Not at all—for creating looser definitions of what constitutes "risk" for consumers. Factory-raised chickens, for instance, can be automatically certified free of avian flu, even though they're crammed together too close to move; it's only those pesky birds allowed to live free that are suspect. Likewise, Johanns approved the OIE's decision to allow trading of beef from cattle older than 30 months, regardless of whether it comes from countries where BSE-infected cattle have been found. The OIE guidelines are nonbinding; but they usually are approved and applied by the World Trade Organization. And once the WTO speaks, everybody is supposed to shut up and obey, just like California v. the USDA. It's trad, Dad . . .  Many chefs are desperately looking for the Next Big Thing to tickle the palates of their fickle customers. Not Campagne's Daisley Gordon: His latest menu is more traditional French, more country-cousin cuisine than even this temple of old-time gastronomy has attempted before. Ris de veau—veal sweetbreads—may not be new to Gordon's carte, but served with crispy bacon bits over green noodles, they sure are country cookin'. And what about the Campagne version of quenelles de poisson, airy fish dumplings in a creamy cheese sauce, made with Northwest halibut instead of traditional river pike? Heartier appetites might opt for the boudin blanc, truffle-scented chicken sausage served with apples and potatoes. But if you want to go the whole countrified hog, keep an eye on the plats traditionnels, a bi-monthly selection from the greatest hits of French cuisine. You've already missed stuffed grilled pigs' feet and coq au vin, but for summer, bouillabaisse (the current selection) and salade niçoise (next up) are more appropriate anyway. The chosen brew Real beer is nothing but malt, hops, yeast, and water, so beer marketers have their work cut out for them when trying to differentiate their products. Sometimes they may work a little too hard, you know? Take the case of He Brew, supposedly the product of the Schmaltz Brewing Co., the only all-Jewish beer around, with brews like Genesis Ale ("You want original? I'll give you original") and Messiah Bold ("the one you've been waiting for"). All Schmaltz products are certified kosher, so it comes as something of a disappointment that Schmaltz (that's "chicken fat" in Yiddish; did you know that?) is a shell company, and the beer in those brave "chosen beers" are produced under license by Mendocino Brewing, with breweries in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Ukiah, Calif. Oh, well. Maybe the beer's good. Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at

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