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Maine Voices: It's Time to Rebuild a System that Supports Local Food and Farms

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Food Safety Resource Center page, Maine News page, and our Factory Farm page.
There aren't many news items that get your attention faster than a story about a food recall. Whether it's listeria in cantaloupes or salmonella in peanut butter, the news that the food we eat and feed our families might be contaminated is unsettling.

Most of the time the outbreak is limited to some other part of the country and it's easy to think we here in Maine are safe. But that wasn't the case just before Christmas when the news broke that ground beef sold at Hannaford stores in Maine and around the Northeast was linked to a rare strain of salmonella. To date, 19 people have been infected with this strain of salmonella, 14 of them having reported eating ground beef before getting sick.

One aspect of this outbreak that is most worrisome is the fact that this particular strain of salmonella is resistant to the most common antibiotics. Although the infections have responded to some drugs, a number of antibiotics normally used to treat salmonella have proved ineffective against this strain.

The incidence of drug-resistant infections in farm animals has been on the rise since large-scale cattle, hog and chicken growers started adding antibiotics to feed. These antibiotics help ward off some of the disease that comes when animals are packed into tighter quarters and fed lower quality feed. The drugs also change the animals' metabolism, allowing them to put on weight more quickly.

In other words, antibiotics in animal feed do nothing to improve the health of the animals; they just let these giant factory farmers cut costs and make more money.


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