Nicholas Kristof Discusses Endocrine Disruptors with Stephen Colbert

NY Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof appeared on The Colbert Report last night to talk about his recent column, “It’s Time to Learn From Frogs.” Kristof quoted Center for a Livable Future Director Dr. Robert Lawrence in the op-ed piece. Endocrine disruptors have complex effects on the human body, particularly during fetal development of males, noted Krostof. “A lot of these compounds act as weak estrogen, so that’s why developing males–whether smallmouth bass or humans–tend to be more sensitive,” said Lawrence. “It’s scary, very scary.” See Colbert’s complete interview with Kristof.

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Increasing Appetite for Documentary’s Unsavory Message

food-inc-posterDespite its content, moviegoers’ appetites for “Food, Inc.” are only growing stronger. Just in its second week of limited-release, theaters are selling out of tickets for the documentary, which is highly critical of the industrial food system. Much of the demand may be attributed to the tidal wave of accolades from critics and writers in newspapers, magazines and blogs all over the country.

Most recently Op-Ed columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about the film in his Sunday column:

“A terrific new documentary, “Food, Inc.,” playing in cinemas nationwide, offers a powerful and largely persuasive diagnosis of American agriculture. Go see it, but be warned that you may not want to eat for a week afterward. (It was particularly unnerving to see leftover animal bits washed over with ammonia and ground into “hamburger filler.” If you happen to be eating a hamburger as you read this, I apologize.)”

Movie critic Roger Ebert admitted his review didn’t read much like a movie review:

“This review doesn’t read one thing like a movie review. But most of the stuff I discuss in it, I learned from the new documentary “Food, Inc.,” directed by Robert Kenner and based on the recent book An Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I figured it wasn’t important for me to go into detail about the photography and the editing. I just wanted to scare the bejesus out of you, which is what “Food, Inc.” did to me.”

Truthfully, the movie shouldn’t scare you, but I hope it inspires viewers to do something about it. The makers of “Food, Inc.” hope so too and offer “10 simple things you can do to change our food system.” Considering I’m the project director for the Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Projects, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight number five.

“5. Meatless Mondays – Go without meat one day a week”

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for a Livable Future have embraced the Meatless Monday national campaign since its inception almost a decade ago. The campaign’s goal is to reduce the negative health and environmental impacts of industrially produced meat.

Read More >

Treatment of Humans and Animals is Reflective of Our Society

Last Thursday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof discussed the recent heightened interest in ensuring basic humane treatment practices in food animal production facilities. In November 2008, Californians overwhelmingly passed an animal rights ballot initiative requiring that chicken, pork and veal producers allow the animals enough room to stand, turn around and extend their limbs. The Humane Society advocates for similar legislation across the country.

Kristof credits consumer demand for better practices as the driver behind these efforts. “What we’re seeing now is an interesting moral moment: a grass-roots effort by members of one species to promote the welfare of others,” he writes. “Legislation is playing a role, with Europe scheduled to phase out bare wire cages for egg production by 2012, but consumer consciences are paramount. It’s because of consumers that companies like Burger King and Hardee’s are beginning to buy pork and eggs from producers that give space to their animals.” Read More >

Antibiotic Use in Industrial Food Animal Production Gaining Notice

Two op-ed articles were published in The New York Times this past week by Nicholas Kristof in regards to the misuse of antibiotics in animal feed. Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health was in the NYT on Wednesday (3/11) and Pathogens in Our Pork appeared in Saturday’s (3/14) edition. It is encouraging to see such an often overlooked public health issue being brought to the attention of the millions of NYT readers.

Mr. Kristof brings up the point that any medical doctor can tell you: when you overuse and misuse antibiotics, resistance inevitably follows. With 70 percent of all antibiotic use in the United States going into animal feed (at sub-therapeutic levels), a pathway to antibiotic resistant bacteria is clear. And now for the really scary part, “These dangerous pathogens [antibiotic resistant bacteria] are now even in our food supply.” Read More >

Dangerous Medicine in U.S. Food Production: Antibiotics

Robert S. Lawrence, Director, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

I applaud Nicholas Kristof for his column, “Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health,” in Wednesday’s edition of The New York Times. Mr. Kristof zeroes in on a critical public health issue that could have dire consequences if we do not stop using antibiotics and other antimicrobials as growth promoters in industrial food animal operations.

Nearly a year ago, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released a report entitled “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America.” After two years of extensive investigation, the Pew Commission found that the use of antibiotics in animals without a diagnosed illness (i.e., as growth promoters) was of “deep concern.”

In 1998, the National Academies of Science estimated that antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections were increasing health care costs by a minimum of $5 billion annually. The unchecked use of antibiotics in industrial agriculture is contributing to the spread of resistant organisms.

The volume of antibiotics used to treat human illness pales in comparison to the volume used in industrial farm animal production. In 2005, the Union of Concerned Scientists noted that while 3 million pounds of antibiotics were being used in human medicine each year, the food animal industry was using 24.6 million pounds, primarily to stimulate growth and increase production.

Resistant bacteria from industrial operations, such as the facilities mentioned by Mr. Kristof, can reach the human population in a number of ways-through our food and water supplies, the air we breathe, or direct contact with animals, to name a few. And there is increasing concern that this resistance can “jump” species of bacteria, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Prudent public health policy requires that non-therapeutic uses of antimicrobials in food animal production should stop. Economic analyses demonstrate that little economic benefit derives from using antimicrobials as feed additives, and that equivalent improvements in growth and feed consumption can be achieved by improved hygiene.

In 2006, Europe eliminated the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, and South Korea did the same last summer. The American Medical Association opposes the use of antibiotics in farm animals that are not sick, and WHO has called for phasing out the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion in livestock and fish production.

We must put an end to this practice.

*Note from LFB: You can follow Nicholas Kristof’s blog, On the Ground, or his Twitter feed.

Hog Farms, Spread of MRSA, Subject of NYT Column

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof hit on antibiotic resistance today in his opinion column. Kristof reports traveling to the small town of Camden, Indiana, where a recently deceased doctor uncovered a frightening number of residents with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Turns out that the small Indiana town is surrounded by a large number of industrial hog farms. Kristof points to the 2004 dutch study which showed pigs could infect people with MRSA, and mentions the recent study from the University of Iowa that found 45 percent of pig farmers examined carried MRSA. Kristof concludes, “so what’s going on here, and where do these antibiotic-resistant infections come from? Probably from the routine use — make that the insane overuse — of antibiotics in livestock feed.” He promises another column in Sunday’s Times that will focus more on the issue.