Raising meat is a threat to produce farmers!

Raising meat poses a threat to crop farmers, their produce and our health!

Even at a distance, raising meat poses a danger to human health. A new report by the FDA highlights the danger of farm animal operations located close to produce growing fields. Bacteria from farm animals that cause food poisoning can travel over to the produce by water, dust in the wind or via the farmworkers. All kinds of produce are vulnerable to bacterial contamination.

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is illness caused by eating food contaminated with disease-causing bacteria or the toxins produced by the bacteria. These are intestinal bacteria and originate from the guts of animals, since only animals and humans have intestines. Given the large numbers of animals on a factory farm, and the waste they produce, it’s trouble waiting to happen. Bacteria that can cause food poisoning include Salmonella, Staph and E. Coli.

While we’re used to thinking of cross-contamination occurring in the restaurant or kitchen where the food is prepared, cross-contamination of produce can happen at any point during the production: growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparing. When this cross-contamination happens early in the process, there is more potential for the effect to be multiplied onto other food products that they come into contact with. This is especially troublesome for raw, ready-to-eat foods, such as salads or other produce. Because these foods aren’t cooked, harmful organisms aren’t destroyed before eating and so can cause food poisoning.

In a recent case, a Salmonella outbreak linked to whole fresh peaches sickened 101 people across 17 states, including 28 who had to be hospitalized. In the peach orchards, adjacent to chicken farms, the Food and Drug Administration connected the dots between the peaches and the poultry. This appears to be the first time a Salmonella outbreak has been linked to peaches, according to federal health officials.

Previous investigations by state and federal officials have found links between animal farms that polluted the water with E. Coli, and contaminated Romaine lettuce fields growing nearby, resulting in outbreaks of E. Coli infections in towns where the Romaine lettuce was sold.

According to the FDA report, “….the investigational findings reinforce the FDA’s concern about the potential impact that adjacent land uses can have on the safety of produce.” All produce grown near farms raising meat, dairy and eggs are at risk. Solutions could include enacting legislation in order to prosecute the animal farms that cause the cross-contamination, and requiring such farms not to be located within 10 miles of a produce farm. Of course, if we stop eating animal foods, farmers will have less incentive to raise animals in the first place!