Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September 1 2015. Are we poisoning our selves? The more I look, the more I cannot but wonder—because clearly we are.






The American Food Chain deserves much closer examination than it gets. The media do cover individual incidents—normally to excess—but such obsession with detail tends to obscure the much greater overall problem that there are numerous things seriously wrong with American agriculture and food—let alone food choices.

It is scarcely a coincidence that Americans live sicker and die two years sooner, on average, than the citizens of other developed countries. Lifestyle and inadequate healthcare certainly are factors, but food quality—or the lack of it—is no small factor. It is a serious, fundamental, structural problem. Physically, we are what we eat—and, to a considerable extent—our mental state is influenced by the state of our health. Mine and body are interrelated.

The general assumption is that the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration) has the situation under control. The evidence is very much to the contrary.

The issue which disturbs me most is antibiotic overuse in food animals which, in turn, causes antibiotic resistance in humans. This is widespread and ongoing and, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) causes 23,000 unnecessary deaths a year and other wise adversely affects a further two million plus (that we know about) The scale of the problem increases by the day.

The CDC could ban this practice tomorrow, but commercial interests are so politically powerful that they have contented themselves with merely advising against it.

When corporate power trumps health to this degree, it is clear that there is something seriously wrong with U.S. democracy—and with the current American Business Model.

Trillions of dollars have been spent since 9/11 in mainly fruitless or unjustified wars to fight terrorism. Meanwhile, in the same 14 year period, about 322,000 Americans have died from anti-biotic resistance—and close to 30 million have been sickened to excess.

That death rate equates to SIX VIETNAM WARS as far as the U.S. is concerned. It is of WW II proportions.

And that is just one single problem with the American Food Chain.

The full list would take a book! Not altogether a bad idea—though there are some excellent books on the issues already out there—but it would be terrifying because a great deal more is wrong than most of us think (or care to think).

  • Industrial farming (monoculture—which is heavily dependent on chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides—means that soil quality is declining at a rapid rate. A major result is the at the nutritional quality of the food we eat is declining also. An apple today may look like an apple of 50 years ago—but it is not close to being as nourishing. Appearances have improved. Substance has deteriorated.
  • Pollution—stemming from a very wide range of sources from coal fired power stations to animal waste to fracking chemicals—is having a negative effect. We are spewing out this stuff at the rate of millions of tons a year. The U.S. may be large, but the impact of over 320 million humans, not to mention the animals we raise, is significant.
  • Our food animals are largely reared under appalling conditions which would give rise to disease on a massive scale—except that they are routines fed antibiotics in their food as a prophylactic measure. As a consequences both such animals, and us, are fast becoming resistant to a wide range of essential antibiotics.
  • There are serious and increasing problems with both the quality of our water and the quantity that is available. This is scarcely surprising given the scale of pollution, the fact that we use over 80,000 chemicals in an unregulated way, and have become dependent on medications to a degree that defies credulity (and is unhealthy in itself). Medical waste, which largely we don’t test for, is emerging as a very serious problem. It is giving rise to such disturbing phenomena as two headed fish. What is it doing to us?
  • More and more food is being imported. Very little of it is checked.
  • Food processors start off with mediocre food ingredients—and then add excessive quantities of salt, fat, sugar, and chemicals to make their food as addictive as possible. They largely succeed in this goal—with disastrous consequences as far as health is concerned. In effect, processed food has evolved into a range of addictive drugs—in many cases with more lethal side-effects. A consequence is ever-rising rates of obesity—which, in turn, gives rise to Type Two diabetes and a wide range of other unpleasant effects.

A reasonable person might consider the state of the U.S. Food Chain—not to mention eating habits and fast food—as constituting ‘a  clear and present danger’ to the wellbeing of the Nation—but, although a little noise is being made, mostly business trundles along as usual.

The American Tragedy ever continues.

Why You Really Might Want to Go with a Having a Veggie Burger Instead

By Lindsay Abrams [1] / Salon [2]

August 25, 2015

If that raw hamburger meat you bought to cook for dinner hasn’t given you a stomach ache yet, this might: according to a Consumer Reports investigation [3], store-bought ground beef is teeming with dangerous bacteria, including “superbugs” resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics, as well as a whole lot of poop.

That’s a big problem, the report warns, because of Americans’ penchant for under-cooked meat. But the study, which analyzed 300 packages of meat purchased from grocery, big-box, and natural food stores across 26 U.S. cities, found some important differences dependent on how the beef was raised: either conventionally — in grain and soy feedlots where food is supplemented with antibiotics and other growth-promoting drugs — or what the report terms “sustainably”: meaning, in this case, that no antibiotics were used, and which also could include organic or grass-fed cattle.

According to the researchers, conventionally raised samples turned out to have more bacteria, in general. And 18 percent contained at least one strain of bacteria resistant to the drugs most commonly used in human medicine, compared to just 9 percent of more sustainably raised samples, and 6 percent of grass-fed.

Where superbugs lurk.

Photo Credit: 

Consumer Reports

The use of low-level antibiotics on feedlots — including some that are important to human medicine — may be responsible for the discrepancy. Consumer Reports suggests that overall higher amount of bacteria in conventional beef, meanwhile, may be a function of the conditions in which the animals are raised, in cramped, feces-ridden, stress-producing spaces; fed, with diets can include “candy, chicken coop waste and the slaughterhouse remains of pigs and chickens; and slaughtered, in a rapid manner that can increase the odds of contamination occurring.

It’s all reason, per Consumer Reports, to look at labels, and strive to purchase sustainably raised beef “whenever possible.”

Doing so won’t ensure a safe meal, however. Because while a higher proportion of conventional beef tested positive for superbugs, each and every sample tested by Consumer Reports was found to contain either enterococcus and/or nontoxin-producing E. coli, which signify fecal contamination. And 10 percent of all samples contained a strain of S. aureus that can make you sick even if you fully cook your meat.

How much bacteria is in beef?

Photo Credit: 

Consumer Reports

Anyone else craving a veggie burger?

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com [4].


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