New drug resistant strains of salmonella have sickened hundreds of people this past week. While it’s all over the news, I hardly find this information new or surprising. We already know that widespread use of antibiotics in farmed animals promotes antibiotic resistant bacteria. And consuming low levels of these drugs through animals renders antibiotic therapy in humans less effective.
Antibiotic resistant strains of salmonella are increasing in prevalence each year. According to the FDA, nearly 45% of salmonella found in chickens and over 50% found in turkeys are resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics. Looking at these numbers, it’s no wonder that MRSA and other superbugs arise from animal agriculture.
Think “cage free” eggs or “humane” meat offers a solution? Think again. The tainted chickens from Foster Farms are “American Humane Association Certified.”
“Humane” labeling does not imply safety (or humanity.)
At times like these, many of us wonder how to prevent food poisoning. So I thought this might be a good moment to roll out ten important facts about foodborne illness.
1) Food-borne pathogens such as E.coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter can be traced directly to animal agriculture, and are responsible for over 48 million cases of illness (1 in 6 people) in the U.S. each year.
2) Salmonella is the #1 cause of food poisoning related death. Even the USDA precludes use of the word “safe” in egg advertisements due to the high risk of Salmonella. (also prohibited are the words “healthy” and “nutritious” for various health reasons)
3) 92% of poultry is contaminated with fecal matter containing E. coli.
4) Food borne pathogens can create life long complications including kidney disease, permanent brain damage, and insulin-dependent diabetes. Salmonella can trigger irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis.
5) Campylobacter is the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning in the U.S. 50% of Campylobacter strains can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome which leads to paralysis. Arthritis, heart and blood infections are other lasting effects.
6) E.coli from chickens and turkeys can cause urinary tract infections in women. 50% of chickens contain strains of UTI causing E.coli.
7) Salmonella and Campylobacter linger on surfaces, even after cleaning with bleach. The only way to avoid dangerous pathogens in your kitchen is to refrain from bringing animal products into your home.
8) Cooking eggs does not necessarily kill Salmonella. Handling chicken can result in food- borne infection before or even regardless of consuming it.
9) All food poisoning originates in animals. E.coli outbreaks in crops are caused by manure leaking into the groundwater, which is then used for watering.
10) Zoonoses such as mad cow disease, bird flu, swine flu, and a strain of MRSA have become public health threats due to modern animal agriculture. Recent outbreaks of bird and swine flu have heightened epidemiologists’ fears of a human influenza pandemic.
It was hard to resist a scary news treatment here.
These diseases arise because animals are overcrowded and sick on both large and smaller scale farms. And don’t forget, all animals, (whether they ate organic feed, were “free range” etc.) end up in the same slaughterhouses where infections spread rampantly through feces and other fluids.
What can we do to stop the spread of these diseases? Each one of us has the power to affect change three times a day. Whenever someone goes vegetarian or vegan, the demand for these animals decreases. When we make more conscious food choices, we help make a safer, cleaner, more humane world a reality.
Wondering how to get started? No sweat!
• Try some Meatless Mondays for a start!
• Check out the Mercy for Animals starter guide
• Find important nutrition information on VeganHealth.org
• Try the 30 Day Vegan Challenge
• Listen to the informative and inspiring podcast, Food for Thought.
• Find great restaurants in your neighborhood, and while traveling.
Please share this post widely! Informed people are the ones who make big changes.
Freston, Kathy (2010, January 8) E. Coli, Salmonella and Other Deadly Bacteria and Pathogens in Food: Factory Farms Are the Reason. Nutrition Facts. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-freston/e-coli-salmonella-and-oth_b_415240.html
Greger, Michael (2013, July 15) More Than an Apple a Day: Combating Common Diseases. Retrieved from: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/more-than-an-apple-a-day-preventing-our-most-common-diseases/
Joy, Melanie. (2010). Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press.
NARMS (2011) Retail Annual Meat Report. Retrieved from: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/AntimicrobialResistance/NationalAntimicrobialResistanceMonitoringSystem/ucm334828.htm