Why do we need to end factory farming? So many reasons.
But the one reason that’s getting the most attention from public health officials these days is this: Drug-resistant infections from food are growing. And, as New York Times reporter Matt Richtel laid out in his article this week, powerful industry interests are blocking scientists and investigators from getting information they need to combat the problem.
Richtel tells the story of Rose and Roger Porter Jr., whose 10-year-old daughter, Mikayla, nearly died from the fastest-growing salmonella variant in the U.S.—“a strain that is particularly dangerous because it is resistant to antibiotics,” according to Richtel.
Mikayla was one of nearly 200 people reported ill in the summer of 2015 in Washington State from tainted pork.
As the Times reports:
The surge in drug-resistant infections is one of the world’s most ominous health threats, and public health authorities say one of the biggest causes is farmers who dose millions of pigs, cows and chickens with antibiotics to keep them healthy — sometimes in crowded conditions before slaughter.
We know industrial meat is contaminated with all manner of drugs, including antibiotics. A Consumer Reports investigation last year exposed the failure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to act on information gleaned from its own test results.
FSIS testing on meat and poultry sold in the U.S. turned up everything from ketamine, an antidepressant, to Phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory pain medication, to chloramphenicol, to chloramphenicol, an antibiotic that, at any exposure level, can trigger life-threatening aplastic anemia (the inability to produce enough new blood cells) in some people.
Why doesn’t the USDA crack down on the use of drugs in industrial meat production? And why did the public health officials investigating Mikayla’s illness in Washington run into so many roadblocks?
Dr. Parthapratim Basu, a former chief veterinarian at FSIS told the Times:
“When it comes to power, no one dares to stand up to the pork industry, not even the U.S. government.”
What will it take for the USDA to act? More illnesses? More deaths?