If you’ve been following my posts here at Care2, then you knew about pink slime long before it became big news (remember my What’s in a Fast Food Burger?). While pink slime has a definite “yuck factor,” it’s time now to turn our attention to meat industry practices that pose a significant public threat, such as the industry practice of routinely lacing pig and chicken feed with millions of pounds of antibiotics every year. This can both create a breeding ground for multi-drug resistant “superbugs” and leave drug residues in the meat as detailed in the NutritionFacts.org video above.
Last week, a landmark court case was won by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The ruling will force the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to honor its decades-old promise to stop factory farms from feeding millions of pounds of penicillin and tetracycline antibiotics to farm animals. Now it’s time to expand that to all classes of antibiotics critical to human medicine.
This month I was honored to be on CNN with Representative Slaughter—Congress’s only microbiologist—who reintroduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act to help stem the dangerous overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. The legislation is backed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and more than a hundred other health organizations. On the other side is the likes of the National Chicken Council, the National Turkey Federation, and the National Pork Producers Council.
The reason the bill faces an uphill battle despite this stark contrast is that the public health community is facing not one, but two of the most powerful lobbies—not just agribusiness, but also the pharmaceutical industry that profits from the sale of the drugs. By harnessing the collective outrage generated by the pink slime controversy, however, consumer advocates might be able to help tip the scales.
Michael Greger, M.D.
P.S. Other factory farming practices that deserve additional scrutiny are the implantation of anabolic steroids, the feeding of arsenic-containing drugs to chickens and turkeys, and the genetic manipulation of dairy cows to lactate into the third trimester of their pregnancy.
Image credit: Pat Corkery / U.S. Department of Energy