On April 29, 2008, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP) released the findings of a two-and-a half-year examination of the food animal industry to the nation. Their conclusion: The current system of raising animals posed unacceptable risks to public health and the environment. Five years later, an in-depth analysis by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) determined that instead of getting better, the problem has actually gotten worse since the commission released its seminal report, Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. Read more
Today, together with Causes.Com, I’m launching a new petition to take on what government officials and medical experts are increasingly calling a growing threat to public health: The overuse of antibiotics on animal farms. The petition is expected to reach as many as a half million Internet viewers this week. Petition signers are asking Walmart’s CEO, Mike Duke, to demand that its meat suppliers only use medically necessary antibiotics when an animal is sick, rather than to prevent sickness because animals are crammed in conditions that breed infection. Read more
For decades, livestock producers have used low doses of antibiotics to expedite animal growth. The practice, dubbed sub-therapeutic antibiotic therapy (STAT), lowers feed costs while increasing meat production, and nearly 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are for this purpose. Because STAT can encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” it’s banned in many countries, but remains common in the U.S.-despite recent public pleas to stop it by two former FDA commissioners. Although STAT has been in use since the 1950s, how it works has long been a mystery. But evidence is mounting that it might be due to antibiotics killing microorganisms that populate animals’ guts. Read more
“I bring my lunch to school every day because the school food is pretty disgusting,” Nick Hilliard, a senior at Apopka High School in Florida, told high school reporter Rachel Armstrong.
“If you’re willing to spend some money, you can have a well-balanced meal,” said a senior from Portland, Oregon, in her school newspaper.
“A lot of the food is oily. It doesn’t look good,” said a sophomore at California’s Oakland Tech, as quoted in her high school paper. Read more
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
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
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
The Food and Drug Administration recently announced two sweeping programs for protecting Americans from contamination in our food. Every year tens of thousands of Americans get sick from the presence of Salmonella, E.coli, and other bacteria in the food we eat. These new programs will help prevent some of the contamination from happening in the first place.
This is a welcome departure for an agency better known for paralysis than prevention. Perhaps this bold New Year’s announcement means the FDA is kicking off a new focus on shielding Americans from harm. Or perhaps the agency will simply fall back into its familiar pattern of delay. Read more
As Americans ring in the new year, many of us will resolve to get healthy. Meat and poultry producers can help — by making a resolution to put their farm animals on an antibiotics diet.
Antibiotics are lifesaving medicines. But overusing them can have unintended consequences. That’s what we’re seeing on industrial farms where these drugs are being used on a massive scale in a way that threatens the public’s health. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics are sold each year for use in food animal production, most often to make the animals grow faster and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. By comparison, drug makers sold about 7 million pounds of these products last year to treat sick people. Read more
In a new study of raw pork chops and ground pork, Consumer Reports found 69 percent samples were contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica, according to a report published by the group today. A lesser-known foodborne pathogen, Yersinia enterocolitica can cause fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, lasting one to three weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is approximately one confirmed infection per 100,000 people reported each year, but since these cases are severely under-reported, CDC estimates there are actually around 100,000 infections in the United States annually.
Consumer Reports tested 198 samples and found that while the vast majority were positive for Yersinia, only 3 to 7 percent were positive for more the more common foodborne pathogens Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus or Listeria monocytogenes.
According to the report, several of the isolates found were resistant to one or more antibiotics: Six of the eight Salmonella samples, 13 of the 14 Staphylococcus samples and 121 of the 132 Yersinia samples. The study also found MRSA on one sample.
The group points to the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture as a key contributor to the resistance problem. Read more