When super-chef and restaurateur Mario Batali, self proclaimed lover of all forms of pork, decided to join the Meatless Monday movement, Washington Post food writer Jane Black took notice. In an article published today, she wrote, “when Mario Batali starts to push people to eat their vegetables, you know something is happening.”
Black does an excellent job of laying out the many issues surrounding the public health campaign’s call for everyone to cut meat out of their diet just one day a week. The current Meatless Monday campaign was launched in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diets by about 15 percent. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) serves as a scientific advisor for the campaign. CLF recognizes that by adopting Meatless Monday individuals can improve their health and potentially reduce demand for meat products, particularly industrially produced meat, which use huge amounts of natural resources and pose significant public health and environmental risks. Read More >
I hope every lawmaker on Capitol Hill had a chance to watch CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric’s two-part investigative series on the risks of using antibiotics as growth promoters in food animals. After viewing both pieces it would be difficult for most people to question the immediate need to pass the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). PAMTA would effectively end the practice of administering constant low doses of antibiotics important to human health in food animals in the hopes of reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant diseases among the general public. As we mentioned Tuesday, the first installment of the series highlighted the connections between industrial food animal production and the growing number of antibiotic resistant infections across the country.Couric’s second installment dismantled several arguments which critics of PAMTA often use to dissuade passage. I’ll point out just two.
First, the report puts to rest the deceptive claims by PAMTA opponents who point to outdated data from Denmark that they say proves an antibiotic-ban in the U.S. would hurt farmers. Opponents allude that the Danish ban on non-therapeutic antibiotics in food animals was a failure, claiming the numbers show the ban increased the mortality of piglets and required the increase of therapeutic antibiotic usage to treat sick pigs. Couric’s second report opened in Denmark, focusing on the “Danish Experience.” Farmers and researchers there tell a much different story. Couric interviewed Danish hog farmer Soren Helmer, who said, “We thought we could not produce pigs as efficient as we did before. But that was proven wrong.” Couric reported, “since the ban the Danish pork industry has grown by 43 percent making it one of the top exporters in the world.”
As I pointed out in an earlier blog post, Danish scientists, from the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark, Drs. Frank Møller Aarestrup and Henrik Wegener, submitted last July written testimony for a U.S. House Committees Rules hearing on PAMTA. They wrote, “As you may be aware, representatives of organizations funded by U.S. agri-business have criticized and mis-represented the facts on the Danish ban of antibiotics since its inception.” The scientists found that the total antibiotic use for pork decreased by 50% and that piglet deaths initially increased, but after improving animal living conditions those numbers have since dipped below pre-ban numbers. Read More >
When is the last time you walked around an urban public high school in the United States? For most of us, it’s been a while. For me, it was just last month and I will tell you what I noticed when I walked around. It wasn’t the dilapidated buildings, the lack of experienced teachers, or the missing vocational and practical trades that disappeared a long time ago with shrinking budgets. I noticed land. I saw opportunity.
What some say is the last vestige of the “commons” in America, our public school system sits on an incredible amount of land! Walk around a public high school and you see land that is not being used; it’s either being under-utilized or it is completely abandoned. Pavement and asphalt is the default, and green-space upkeep costs too much money for strapped urban districts. Was it ever used? I don’t know, but it’s time to utilize this public space for the community.
As we stare at our nation’s expanding waistlines and the “franken-foods” that dominate our store shelves, we realize that what the communities of our great nation need is real food. We’ve watched the obesity rates in our children triple in the last two decades, and we are left with no choice but to creatively respond to this epidemic. If we don’t, there is a good chance they may become the first generation in our history to live a shorter life span than their parents.
As a Government and Economics teacher in a deeply urban school in California, I come face to face with disturbing daily realities. Recently, a 16 year old Latina student came up to me in astonishment and asked, “Are you telling me that a lemon is a fruit?” Equally astonished are the students that walk out to the school garden and marvel at the sweet peas they can pick fresh off the vine. “I never knew that came out of a flower,” I’ve heard them gasp. They recoil at the sight of dirt touching a piece of produce, yet they don’t blink at paying $2 for bottled water that is less regulated than the water coming out of their tap. I don’t blame my students for a system that produces 3,800 calories per day per person (we only need half that amount) and then uses the most sophisticated marketing tools on the planet to get our youth to consume them. As a teacher, I have learned that you must accept your students “where they are” because getting angry about how they got there is wasted energy. Accept the challenge and then work like hell to help them reach their potential. I’ve accepted that the industrialized food companies got to my students first, and now I know through local food production in the schools, I can help them become healthier once again. Read More >
The lengthy and well-researched article provides a comprehensive look into the complex issue of antibiotic resistance and other dangers posed by Concentrated Animal Feeding Opeations (CAFOs). In the article, Kellogg Schwab, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Water and Health, says of a typical pig farm manure lagoon he sampled: “There were 10 million E. coli per liter [of sampled waste]. Ten million. And you have a hundred million liters in some of those pits. So you can have trillions of bacteria present, of which 89 percent are resistant to drugs. That’s a massive amount that in a rain event can contaminate the environment.” He adds, “This development of drug resistance scares the hell out of me. If we continue on and we lose the ability to fight these microorganisms, a robust, healthy individual has a chance of dying, where before we would be able to prevent that death.” Schwab says that if he tried, he could not build a better incubator of resistant pathogens than a factory farm. He, Ellen Silbergeld, professor of environment health, and others assert that the level of danger has yet to be widely acknowledged. Says Schwab, “It’s not appreciated until it’s your mother, or your son, or you trying to fight off an infection that will not go away because the last mechanism to fight it has been usurped by someone putting it into a pig or a chicken.” The complete cover story “Farmacology” is available here. Additional information on the use of antibiotics in animals can be found in the report, “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America,” a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Place of residence plays a larger role in dietary health than previously estimated,” said Manuel Franco, MD, PhD, lead author of the studies and an associate with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology. “Our findings show that participants who live in neighborhoods with low healthy food availability are at an increased risk of consuming a lower quality diet. We also found that 24 percent of the black participants lived in neighborhoods with a low availability of healthy food compared with 5 percent of white participants.” Read More >