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Food Briefs

More Drug Abusers Saying Yes to Cattle Rustling

June 29, 1989|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

More cattle are being stolen in California during the 1980s than were rustled at the turn of the century, according to a meat industry publication.

In 1988, for instance, 2,400 animals were purloined by cattle thieves from 240 livestock firms, Lean Trimmings, a Western States Meat Assn. newsletter, reported. Losses from these cow capers are estimated at about $1 million annually.

State officials believe that the drug problem is partially to blame for the increase in thefts.

"(With) the rise in beef prices . . . a wayward cow starts to look pretty inviting to (the) drug-crazed," the newsletter stated. "The $200 an addict can get on the street for a cow is more than enough to support most habits (for a day)."

The escalating cattle rustling has caused the state's Department of Food and Agriculture to create a special Livestock Enforcement Unit. Oddly enough, California was forced to establish a similar anti-crime squad in 1917 when problems with stolen steers last arose, Lean Trimmings reports.

Absconding with a cow, however, is not as easy as pilfering a car stereo. Police familiar with the problem believe that some of the disappearances are the work of cowhands.

"It requires a great deal of equipment and knowledge of the cattle industry to steal the animals. These 'inside outlaws' often alter the cow's brands and ear markings, transport them across state lines and sell them to unknowing buyers," according to the newsletter.

But as is the case with virtually all kinds of thefts within the state, officials predict that there will be more rustling than ever in 1989.

Picking a Pepper--Few people look at bell peppers as a rich source of nutrients, but an Indio, Calif.-based company hopes to change that perception with a series of recent advertisements promoting its hybrid variety trademarked as Le Rouge Royale.

The sweet red peppers, developed by Sun World International, are said to be a superior source of Vitamin C, potassium and fiber. The vegetables, each of which is tagged with the company's distinctive sticker, are also comparatively high in other nutrients.

The innovative agricultural firm, which introduced a seedless watermelon last year, claims that laboratory tests demonstrate Le Rouge Royale contains far more Vitamin C than a navel orange.

The analysis, conducted by the Produce Marketing Assn. in Newark, Del., was reviewed for authenticity by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Because the Le Rouge Royale are generally oversized, only about three-fourths the size of an average pepper, or five ounces, was used for the tests.

The findings indicate that five ounces of the Sun World pepper offer 180% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. By comparison, a navel orange has 100% of the recommended amount and a whole green bell pepper has 130% of the target level.

The disparity is similar for potassium. Researchers found that five ounces of Le Rouge Royale contained 350 milligrams of the mineral, while a banana had 300 milligrams and a green bell pepper contained 270 milligrams.

The analysis revealed that the deep red vegetable was also a good source of fiber. For instance, one bowl of bran flakes contains five grams of fiber whereas three-fourths of a Le Rouge Royale has as much as four grams.

Sun World developed its red pepper strain by combining other varieties such as the Bell, Cubanella and Bulgarian. The mixture is responsible for the Le Rouge Royale's distinctive color, size and shape.

Although Sun World is decidedly proud of the Le Rouge Royale's nutritional composition, it has no plans to market a red pepper breakfast juice at this time. Even so, the firm recommends munching on its peppers as a "healthy snack."

Meal or Pills?--Nutritional-supplement manufacturers were not cheered when a federal advisory body urged Americans to obtain their recommended daily allotment of vitamins and minerals from food rather than tablets.

The 1,300-page study from the National Research Council, released earlier this year, generated considerable news coverage for seemingly advocating a "no pills" dietary regimen.

But the report's intent was somewhat misinterpreted, according to the Tufts University Diet & Nutrition Letter. There were a number of instances where the council did, in fact, say that nutritional supplements were appropriate, the newsletter states.

Among groups considered potentially deficient in certain vitamins or minerals are pregnant women, strict vegetarians, women who suffer from excessive menstrual bleeding, the elderly, and sick individuals whose appetites are depressed. Certain medications may also cause deficiencies, the Diet & Nutrition Letter reported.

"Of course, none of this means that popping a vitamin or mineral pill should be viewed as a panacea for a poor diet or that taking excess amounts of one or another nutrient is a healthful practice," the newsletter stated.

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