On April 8, the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center stepped into the debate about antibiotic use in animal agriculture. Under the guidance of physicians and foodservice staff alike, UCSF’s Academic Senate unanimously approved a resolution to phase out the procurement of meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics and urged all ten University of California campuses to do the same. This resolution is not just a symbolic decision – serving over 650,000 meals per year to patients, staff, and the community, and with a food budget of close to $7 million, UCSF and its food purchasing choices have the power to send a strong message to the market and to policymakers. Read more
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The independent product testing organization Consumer Reports, which regularly tests and rates a raft of consumer products—from lawnmowers, to washing machines, to baby monitors, to cars—recently focused its meticulous consumer product testing methods on America’s turkey burgers, releasing the results of their new study of ground turkey samples from around the United States. The findings were simultaneously unappetizing and encouraging. Read more
In the latest report by the Food & Environment Reporting Network, out today in May/June issue of Eating Well magazine, looks at the growing issue of antibiotic resistance due to the routine use of antibiotics in livestock production. Reporter Barry Estabrook, author of the New York Times bestselling book Tomatoland, details how livestock are fed a diet laced with low “sub-therapeutic” doses of antibiotics, not to cure illness, but to make the animals grow faster and survive cramped living conditions. Read more
The latest round of tests by federal scientists, quietly published in February, has documented startlingly high percentages of supermarket meat containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to a new Environmental Working Group analysis.
EWG’s analysis of data buried in the federal government’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System has found that store-bought meat tested in 2011 contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81 percent of raw ground turkey, 69 percent of raw pork chops, 55 percent of raw ground beef and 39 percent of raw chicken parts. Read more
Jack Jones (who asked that his real name not be used) takes care of a small organic pear orchard for a farmer south of the San Francisco Bay Area. This spring, as the trees have begun to blossom, he’s been spraying them with a small amount of the antibiotic tetracycline to prevent a disease called fire blight.
Last year, when the perfect storm of warm, wet air first brought the bacteria to the farm, he tried removing infected branches and getting rid of cover crops, which were providing nitrogen that fed the disease. But to no avail—the disease had established itself in the trunks.
“It just devastated the orchard. We lost 80 percent of our trees in one season,” he recalls. Read more
In the livestock industry, heroes don’t always get their due. Perhaps that’s because the story of our modern animal agriculture system is so often so bleak—for farmers, animals, our health and the health of our environment.
In the U.S. pork sector, two-thirds of hog production comes from producers working under contract with mega-processors like Smithfield and Cargill. Processing is increasingly automated and farmers feel the pressures of high volume, low cost meat production. In confined animal feeding operations or “CAFOs”, pigs live by the hundreds or thousands in superbug-breeding warehouses, crowded with pens and gestation crates as far as the eye can see. Hogs are raised for maximum weight gain and routinely given antibiotics to speed up growth and prevent the very kinds of diseases that spread when so many animals live in such close, unsanitary and stressful quarters. Read more
Yesterday, Rep. Louise Slaughter, Congress’s lone microbiologist and a long-time leader on the issue of antibiotic resistance, reintroduced an updated version of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, or PAMTA as it is better known. Read more
The development of antibiotics in the mid-20th Century revolutionized public and personal health. Ironically, the early success of antibiotics also fostered a culture, that persists to this day, in which the efficacy of the drugs are taken for granted and the need for new research and development is grossly undervalued. After years of misuse these medical miracles are now failing, at an alarming rate, and the supply of new options is paltry at best. Now public health and some of the crown jewels of modern medicine – such as transplant surgery and chemotherapy — rest precariously on a small handful of increasingly ineffective drugs. Read more
As the proverb goes, if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Unfortunately, new data released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week shows that the livestock industry continues to move in the wrong direction on antibiotic use—digging all of us into a deeper “hole” when it comes to the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance.
The data shows continued very high levels of antibiotic sales for meat and poultry production, with a steady uptick in overall antibiotics use in the livestock sector over the last decade, culminating in record high sales in 2011. Read more
Is our national habit of eating dead animals dragging us closer and closer to a flu pandemic that could kill tens of millions of Americans? Dr. Michael Greger believes so.
He’s the author of the new book, Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, and he recently came on our show, The Big Picture, to ring the alarm bell.
“Up to sixty million Americans get the flu every year,” he said before asking, “What if it turned deadly?”
The question wasn’t exactly rhetorical. Read more