Raising Superbugs on the Factory Farm

We have previously documented the growing evidence that overuse of antibiotics in factory farms is creating super-strains of bacteria that is crossing over to humans, making treatment extremely difficult.

A recent study of factory-farmed poultry, published in the journal Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, found that there were “close genetic matches between resistant E. coli collected from human patients and resistant strains found on chicken or turkey sold in supermarkets or collected from birds being slaughtered.” The E. coli bacteria referred to was showing up in women as difficult to treat urinary tract infections, or UTIs.

Unfortunately, avoiding poultry doesn’t necessarily mean you are safe from contracting an illness (although your odds of not getting infected are better). Cross contamination can occur when infected birds come in to contact with produce or equipment used for slaughter and transporting dead animals. For example, a truck that hauled infected chickens, which is then used to carry a cargo of lettuce, could cause contamination of the lettuce.

Factory farming is an unquestionable disaster. It is inhumane to the animals raised, abusive to the workers, factory farms pollute our groundwater and air and, absent soy and corn subsidies – courtesy of taxpayers, would not be profitable endeavors. Yet they are allowed to operate with little government oversight. Rarely are steps taken by the government to prevent outbreaks; only to control them once they have occurred.

You are risking your life when you eat animals raised on factory farms. While the incidence of serious illness has been low – thus far, it nonetheless has been growing. There have been no new drugs discovered or developed to effectively combat most of the super-strains created by factory farms and this means it is only a matter of time before a major and uncontrollable outbreak occurs.

Our advice? Don’t eat meat, especially meat raised on factory farms. If you handle meat, wash your hands and everything that has come into contact with it thoroughly. If you must eat animals, buy only from a humanely certified producer. Animal Welfare Approved, www.animalwelfareapproved.org, provides a list of farms that raise animals naturally, rather than in tight confined quarters, and thus the risk of infection and contamination is greatly reduced.

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