Healthy Farms, Healthy People: You Can’t Have One Without the Other

This November, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future joined with fellow members of the Healthy Farms, Healthy People coalition steering committee to officially launch the Healthy Farms, Healthy People coalition—“a broad-based collaboration of organizations committed to achieving a healthier nation in tandem with a strong farm economy through policy reform at the local, state and national level.”

The Coalition will work on short-term targeted policy efforts, as well as long-term goals centered on policy change and information-sharing across sectors. The Coalition brings together stakeholders from the health, agricultural, anti-hunger, environmental and economic development communities, whose diverse expertise is necessary to make such reforms to the food system a reality. Read More >

Ban On Arsenicals Is Common Sense

Today’s announcement by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) introducing legislation to ban the use of the arsenical compound roxarsone once again shines the spotlight on the all-too common practice of the unnecessary use of antimicrobial drugs in industrial animal production.

“American consumers simply shouldn’t have to ingest this arsenic compound when they sit at the kitchen table,” said Rep. Israel.  “There’s a reason some major poultry producers have stopped using it – it can only cause environmental and health problems. With cancer levels on the rise we need to be vigilant about the sources of health problems, and that means banning roxarsone.”

The bill (H.R. 3624), known as the “Poison-Free Poultry Act of 2009,” would prohibit all uses of roxarsone as a food additive in animals.

What is roxarsone and why should we be concerned about its use?  Roxarsone is an arsenical antimicrobial drug used extensively in poultry and swine production to combat intestinal parasites, speed growth and improve pigmentation. Some large poultry integrators have reported voluntarily withdrawing roxarsone from feed regimens, although I am unaware of efforts to validate these claims. Further, I am unaware of similar voluntary withdrawals from swine producers. Federal agencies do not mandate the reporting of food animal drug usage, making it difficult to characterize the use of the drug in food animal production. Read More >

Meat Meets Medicine

My local grocery store, like many around the country, has a pharmacy inside. This pharmacy, like many around the country, happens to be situated next to the meat section. Normally, I think nothing of this juxtaposition. That was, until I stopped by the store the other night around 11pm to pick up a few essentials. I headed to the back of the store and there before me, squarely in front of the meat section, was a huge sign advertising free antibiotics.  I couldn’t help but laugh out loud (and cry a little on the inside).

“There’s some refreshing honesty,” I thought .  Most of the meat available in grocery stores around the country contains antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  This is because of non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animal production–a practice that is pervasive in this country, and has been found to result in antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans.  The Union of Concerned Scientists “has estimated that 70% of all antibiotics and related drugs in the United States are used for non-therapeutic purposes (growth promotion and routine disease prevention) in cattle, swine, and poultry.”

Why are essential human medicines going to animals that aren’t actually sick? And why should we care? Read More >