Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy
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Cook Organic not the Planet Campaign

9 Nastiest Things in the Meat You Eat

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page, Food Safety Research Center page and our Factory Farming page.

Recently, the US Department of Agriculture announced plans to "relax" federal meat and poultry inspections, allowing meat processors greater leeway in policing themselves, already the agricultural trend. Most food activists ask how standards could be relaxed any further when drug residues, heavy metals, cleaning supplies, gasses, nitrites, hormones and other unwanted guests contaminate the meat supply. They are almost all unlabeled.

Is seafood safer? Dream on. Mercury-filled tuna is what inspired Fischer Stevens to make the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, about the Japanese dolphin-fishing industry when he personally came down with mercury poisoning. The Chicago Tribune, New York Times and Consumer Reports have reported high mercury levels in almost all red lean and fatty tuna tested, in recent years.

Aquaculture is so festooned with antibiotics, veterinary drugs and pesticides that it can make factory farming look green. Commercial shrimp production, for example, "begins with urea, superphosphate, and diesel, then progresses to the use of piscicides (fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone), pesticides and antibiotics (including some that are banned in the U.S.), and ends by treating the shrimp with sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxicant), Borax, and occasionally caustic soda," says a review of the book, Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood.

Meat contaminants are not likely to go away because they stem from Big Meat's desire to maximize profits by growing animals faster, squeezing them into small living spaces and keeping meat looking "fresh" on store shelves longer. Here is a list of the worst offenders.   

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