On September 10 I wrote a blogpost in which I questioned language used by Perdue Chicken in their announcement about removing antibiotics from hatcheries and removing “human antibiotics” from feed. My main question concerned whether the company would be refraining from using drugs used for humans, or classes of drugs used for humans. This is an important distinction when talking about antibiotic resistance, and the answer I was hoping to hear is that Perdue was swearing off entire classes of drugs used for humans. Read More >
A Reuters story, published yesterday, broke some news about the poultry industry, its dangerous misuse of antibiotics, and the mistruths propagated by industry leaders. Unfortunately, what the reporters uncovered is not that surprising—but it is alarming. Read the article, “Documents reveal how poultry firms systematically feed antibiotics to flocks,” to find out exactly what the reporters’ analysis of “feed tickets” reveals—in short, a notable discrepancy between what the poultry companies tell consumers they are feeding their chickens and what the documents indicate. Feed tickets are documents created by the feed mills that produce chicken feed to the chicken company’s specs; the tickets list names and amounts Read More >
Perdue, the nation’s third largest poultry integrator, announced some important changes to its antibiotic use regimen this past Wednesday. I’ve seen quite a bit of coverage of their move in the news, which is encouraging, but a critical look raises suspicions about some of their claims. Let’s take a look at the Good, the Ambiguous and the Ugly of Perdue’s new policies.
No caveats are needed when describing Perdue’s move to eliminate the injections of eggs with gentamicin. In industrial poultry production, this drug has an extensive history of use in hatcheries, even in birds that will be eventually certified as USDA Organic (the Organic regs turn a blind eye on antibiotic use prior to the second day of life). Their choice to end this practice is one that should be praised. Read More >
A bill to ban Roxarsone and other arsenic-based drugs from Maryland poultry production (H.B. 167) was undermined just hours before it passed the House of Delegates on Monday. An amendment adopted by the House states that the ban will not apply to any arsenic-based drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Under federal law, all drugs—including those that contain arsenic—must be approved by FDA before they can be sold. Because the amendment exempts all FDA-approved drugs, the amendment exempts all arsenical drugs. The bill would no longer protect Marylanders and consumers of Maryland chickens from increased arsenic exposure if companies begin using Roxarsone or an alternative arsenic-based drug once again. Read More >
As Congress returns to work this week, the Pew Health Group and a dozen other scientific, medical, and public health organizations have submitted a joint letter aimed at senators, representatives, legislative staffers and the FDA. The letter, titled “Sound Science: Antibiotic Use in Food Animals Leads to Drug Resistant Infections in People,” is a renewed clarification of the state of scientific knowledge concerning ways in which industrial food animal production (IFAP) contributes to human antibiotic resistance.
Those familiar with the antibiotic resistance issue will recognize the case that the letter makes for ending the misuse of antibiotics in food animals. While the letter makes a clear and solid case for rethinking the use of antibiotics in food animals, I’d like to make some additional points. First, given their close contact with animals and animal waste in the workplace, employees of IFAP facilities are the ones at greatest risk for becoming infected with drug-resistant pathogens. Also, IFAP sites degrade the communities in which they’re sited by contaminating air, water and soils with an extensive variety of site-origined biological and chemical hazards, and by creating indelible rifts in the social fabric that once tied many of these rural communities together. Further, research has demonstrated that these phenomena often occur in low-income communities of color—in many cases, at the expense of people who are not empowered to defend themselves against the injustices they face. Read More >
The newest superbug in town is Salmonella Heidelberg, and the USDA has issued words of caution to U.S. consumers and instructions for proper meat handling—but it needs to press for reform in agricultural practices, as well.
The CDC has identified S. Heidelberg as “resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics,” and so far the outbreak, which is linked to ground turkey, has sickened 77 people in 26 states and killed one person in California. (The CDC has not specified the drugs to which this Salmonella strain is resistant.)
The emergence of the antibiotic-resistant strain prompted the USDA last Friday to issue a public health alert urging consumers to use caution when handling ground turkey, and to cook all poultry products to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. And today, meat processing firm Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation voluntarily recalled 36 million pounds of its ground turkey products. (For details on Cargill’s decision to suspend ground turkey production at its Arkansas facility, read yesterday’s New York Times and Mother Jones articles.) Read More >