In the 2013 report "Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States" issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 superbugs were identified as "urgent, serious and concerning threats" to humankind. The majority of these dangerous bacteria are in the gram-negative category, as they are equipped with body armor that makes them particularly resistant to the immune response. Most disturbing of all, an increasing number of bacteria are now exhibiting "panresistance," which means they're resistant to every antibiotic in existence. The emergence of E. coli carrying the drug-resistant mcr-1 gene is also major cause for worry. While this bacterium is most commonly thought of in terms of food poisoning, a form of E. coli known as ExPEC (which stands for extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli) is responsible for over 90 percent of urinary tract infections (UTIs). Interestingly, while conventional wisdom has maintained that UTIs are primarily caused by sexual contact with an infected individual and/or the transferring of fecal bacteria from your anus to your urethra, research has linked drug-resistant UTIs to contaminated chicken meat. As early as 2005 papers were published showing drug-resistant E. coli strains from supermarket meat matched strains found in human E. coli infections. The researchers contend that poultry is the bridge that allows resistant bacteria to move to humans, taking up residence in the body and sparking infections when conditions are right.
If you've never heard about ketamine, you're not alone. Scores of people had never heard the word until Bloomberg broke the story June 22, 2017, revealing that ketamine had shown up in Sanderson Farms' so-called "100 percent natural" chicken. Some who've heard of ketamine may include veterinarians, psychiatrists and people in the club scene who like to walk on the edgy (read: sketchy) side, as ketamine is known for delivering hallucinogenic effects. Testing also revealed other, and some even worse substances, and consumer advocacy groups don't intend to sit still for it. In fact, a new lawsuit has been initiated by consumer advocacy groups due to the company's use of the word "natural" in its advertising. Bloomberg explains: "The consumer groups contend that Sanderson Farms 'doses its chickens' but don't explain why. Ketamine might be used to sedate the animals during transport or before slaughter. The consumer groups want Sanderson to concede it violated false advertising laws and pay for a corrective ad campaign." As Drug.com explains, ketamine (pronounced kee'-ta-meen) is an anesthesia that "works in the brain to inhibit painful sensations." It's prescribed by psychiatrists for depressed patients and by dentists as an anesthetic. Do you want this drug present in your "natural" chicken?
Antibiotic-resistant infections affect 2 million Americans annually, leading to the death of at least 23,000. Even more die from complications related to the infections, and the numbers are steadily growing. According to the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), just one organism — methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA — kills more Americans each year than the combined total of emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, and homicide. A 2015 report commissioned by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron estimates that by 2050, the annual global death toll from antibiotic-resistant disease will reach 10 million, and the global cost for treatment will be around $100 trillion. Experts have been warning about the implications of antibiotic resistance for years, but as their warnings have largely been ignored, the number of strains developing resistance to even our strongest antibiotics has been allowed to grow unabated. While overuse of antibiotics in medicine and widespread use of antibacterial household products (items containing triclosan) are part of the problem, the inappropriate use of antibiotics in farming bears the heaviest responsibility for creating the antibiotic-resistant superbug crisis of today. An estimated 80 percent of total antibiotic sales in the U.S. end up in livestock.
The floodgates are open for more genetically modified animals—possibly even humans. Last week saw the approval of another genetically modified animal— this time a chicken genetically altered to produce a drug in its eggs. The drug is designed to replace a faulty enzyme in people with a rare genetic condition that prevents the body from breaking down fatty molecules in cells. This is the stuff of dystopian science fiction stories, and we may be approaching such a world faster than we think.
When Jose Navarro landed a job as a federal poultry inspector in 2006, he moved his wife and newborn son to a rural town in Upstate New York near the processing plant, believing it was a steppingstone to a better life. Five years later, Navarro was dead. The 37-year-old’s lungs had bled out. Under new proposed rules, which could be finalized as soon as this summer, the number of chemical treatments used on the birds is also likely to increase further, according to agency documents and USDA inspectors.
by Tom Laskawy
Back in March, Tom Philpott wrote about the “insane” practice of feeding factory-farmed chickens arsenic:
The idea is that it makes them grow faster — fast growth being the supreme goal of factory animal farming — and helps control a common intestinal disease called coccidiosis.
The industry emphasizes that the arsenic is […]