Which is Worse? Germs in Our Food or the Antibiotics That Kill Them?

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

If you want to lose weight the late comic Gilda Radner used to say, eat your lunch next to a car wreck. But this summer all you have to do is eat the food the FDA approves.

Recent recalls of pathogen tainted milk, meat, chicken and cheese make you wonder if E.coli, campylobacter, salmonella and listeria are the new four food groups.

Of course just because our food harbors harmful microbes doesn’t mean it’s not also full of antibiotics. Especially since dosing farm animals with antibiotics is why so many resistant microbes are in the food.

Seventy percent of all US antibiotics are fed to farm animals according to the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009 (PAMTA) introduced by Louise Slaughter (D-NY) this spring. Over 80 percent of pig and sheep farms and cattle feedlots put antibiotics in the feed or water to produce growth with less feed and compensate, “for crowded, unsanitary and stressful farming and transportation conditions,” says the bill.

Forty-eight percent of our national streams are tainted with antibiotics says the bill and meat and poultry bought in US grocery stores shows, “disturbingly high levels of Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria.”

Nor are the antibiotics only in the stream.

In April the FDA wrote Nappanee, IN dairy farmer Lyle J. Borkholder that a cow he sold “for slaughter as food” had excessive sulfadimethoxine–an antibiotic which affects the thyroid–hypothalamus axis– in its liver and muscle. In May, it wrote dairy farmers Alva Carter Jr. and Allen Carter in Portales, NM that their cow, also sold as human food, had excessive flunixin in its liver and desfuroylceftiofur in its kidneys, two other antibiotics.

Both farmers were told, “you hold animals under conditions that are so inadequate that medicated animals bearing potentially harmful drug residues are likely to enter the food supply.”

Worse, veterinarians who condemn the use of gentamicin in food animals, a tenacious antibiotic that destroys kidneys and hearing in humans, revealed in a survey in the current issue of Journal of Dairy Science that they believe Ohio farmers routinely and illegally use the drug in the cows they market.

Nor is mad cow or bovine spongiform encephalopathy a distant fear after the largest meat recall in US history last year, much of it destined for school lunch programs. In its final report on Chino, CA-based Hallmark Meat Company in November, the USDA found disease-spreading tissue called Specified Risk Material (SRM) is routinely left on edible carcasses–hello–and Food Safety and Inspection Services staff believe hand sanitizers kill prions. Not even radiation, Formaldehyde or 18 minutes in an autoclave kills prions, the agent that spreads mad cow disease.

The American Medical Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, Pew Charitable Trusts, most of the antibiotic-taking public and even Chipotle Gourmet Burritos and Tacos support PAMTA. But the pharmaceutical industry, which call itself the American Meat Institute when it is selling animal drugs, does not.

Not only would the legislation ban its current gravy train of penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, lincosamides, streptograminds, aminoglycosides and sulfonamides–the pharmaceutical industry wants to replace human drug profits with animal now that insurers are saying YOU WANT US TO SPEND WHAT? about new blockbuster drugs.

Nor is Big Meat happy. When the FDA announced a ban of just one type of antibiotic last year–cephalosporins–shills from the egg, chicken, turkey, dairy, pork and cattle industries stormed the Hill complaining that a ban would threaten their ability to keep animals “healthy.” But what do they mean by healthy?

Veal calves described in a government slaughter manual as “unable to rise from a recumbent position and walk because they are tired or cold”? (And refused by the wife of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Sarah, this month during her G8 visit to Italy?)

Tyson chickens, 11 percent of which “die of respiratory insufficiency; their bodies not found until six weeks later–or on slaughterhouse day,” according to Yanna Smith in Namibia’s SPACE Magazine? Suffering from “chicken madness” from ammonia fumes?

Antibiotic-enabled animal “health” was manifest when officials raiding an egg farm in Turner, Maine in December–on a tip from Mercy For Animals–had to be treated by doctors for breathing distress after entering the egg barns.

Photos show dazed state workers in Hazmat suits leaving the Quality Egg of New England barns, as disoriented by the sanitation abuses as the cruelty.

Nor were they hungry for lunch.

MARTHA ROSENBERG can be reached at: martharosenberg@sbcglobal.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman
Peter Lee
Making Sense of China’s Stock Market Meltdown
Paul Craig Roberts
Wall Street and the Matrix: Where is Neo When We Need Him?
Kerry Emanuel
The Real Lesson of Katrina: the Worst is Yet to Come
Dave Lindorff
Why Wall Street Reporting is a Joke
Pepe Escobar
Brave (Miserable) New Normal World
Ramzy Baroud
‘Islamic State’ Pretence and the Upcoming Wars in Libya
Paul Edwards
Capitalism Delenda Est
Norman Pollack
The Political Culture of Rape in America: Further Thoughts on the St. Paul’s School Case
Stephen Lendman
The Monied Interests That Run America
Pedro Aibéo
Democratizing Finance (With Bitcoin?)
Alfredo Acedo
Climate Change and Capitalism: Challenges of the COP21 Paris and Climate Movements
August 26, 2015
Paul Street
Overworked and Out of Time: a Democracy Issue
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Behind the Market Crash: the Smoke and Mirrors of Corporate Buybacks
David Mihalyfy
Reform Higher Ed? Treat Badmin Like Bankers
Ruth Hopkins
Police Shootings in Indian Country: Justice or Else!
Gary Leupp
ISIL Advances While Its Foes Cannot Unite
Fred Gardner
The Psychiatrist’s Bible: Defining ‘Marijuana Use Disorder’
Yorgos Mitralias
The Catastrophic International Consequences of the Capitulation of Syriza and the Criminal Responsibility of Mr. Tsipras
Walter Brasch
Katrina: a 10-Year Review
Jim Connolly
Seven Questions and Seven Answers: a Sandernista Makes Reasonable Predictions About the 2016 Contest for the Democratic Presidential Nomination
Pedro Aibéo
Selling Austerity to Finland
Franklin Lamb
Heritage Destruction in Syria is a War Crime
Binoy Kampmark
Tourism’s Disaster Temptation: the Case of Nepal
Jeffrey D. Pugh
Trial by Fire for Ecuador’s President Correa
Vacy Vlanza
A Palestinian Novel Par Excellence
Alvaro Huerta
Confessions of an ‘Anchor Baby’: Open Letter to President Donald Trump
August 25, 2015
Gary Leupp
Why Donald Trump is So Scary
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Thug at the UN
Steve Early
How “Brother” Bernie is Making Labor’s Day
Carl Finamore
An Affordable Housing Victory: High-End San Francisco Development Implodes
Henry Giroux – Chuck Mertz
The Spectacle of American Violence and the Cure for Donald Trump
Robert Eisinger
Trivializing Anti-Semitism
Brian Platt
It is Time We Discussed Abolishing the Police
Alexander Reid Ross
Trump the Fascist
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Mohammed Allan at the Door of the Israeli Supreme Court
Ted Rall
The United States of Stupidity
Heather Gray
A Message to American Mothers About Sex in the Military
Jo Leinen – Andreas Bummel
How to Democratize the UN
Lawrence Davidson
The Iran Agreement and Israel’s Claim to Speak for the Jews
Mark Hand
A Well Pad Next to Every 3-Car Garage: Suburban Sprawl Collides with Texas Frack Jobs
John Laforge
U.S. Bows Out After Plowshares Conviction is Vacated: Appeals Court Ill-Informed on Nuclear Overkill
Norman Pollack
Gender Freedom and Sexual Liberation: The St. Paul’s School Case
Kathy Kelly
Let It Shine