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.
Don’t blame the lettuce! According to the Food and Drug Administration, the large E. coli outbreak which has just happened, caused by contaminated romaine lettuce, may have been caused by a factory farm.
A factory farm is a farm where the animals are crowded together in large numbers. Conditions are often abusive, and as we’ve seen from shocking videos, sometimes deliberately cruel.
E. coli bacteria live in the environment, animals’ intestines and in fecal matter, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dangerous strains of E. coli, as well as salmonella and other foodborne pathogens, are derived from animal (and occasionally human) feces, and can end up in the ground water, streams and rivers. “The bacteria in animal waste could make their way into water one of two ways,” explained University of Florida food safety expert Keith Schneider. “Water can run downhill, especially after rain, and make it into an irrigation ditch, or water can seep into an underground aquifer.”
A likely reason for why romaine lettuce is susceptible to E. coli contamination is that the runoff from cattle reaches the irrigation water for fields where romaine lettuce grows, said Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and a food safety specialist at N.C. State University in Raleigh. In similar outbreaks in the past, contaminated produce was traced back to neighboring livestock operations. In this case, the FDA surmises that the contaminated water was either used to irrigate the lettuce or mixed with pesticides (a common method of dilution) before being sprayed on the plants.
These kinds of outbreaks have been happening again and again. Not all the harm from animal agriculture is done by meat itself. Sometimes it’s right next door!
“Warning: May Contain Feces” is the latest proposal for a label on chicken, from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), after a study found fecal contamination in half the chickens bought at 15 different supermarket chain stores in 10 different cities across America.
Yuck! Poop is the last thing anyone wants in their food. It’s gross, to say the least, and it shows just how filthy are the conditions in which we raise chickens today, and just how unsanitary the slaughterhouses are. It’s also potentially quite dangerous if you ingest it, because the poop contains E. Coli and may also contain other disease-causing bacteria, as well as parasites. It’s a bad situation for both human and bird alike, and it may be about to get even worse.