Poultry Products Rarely Tested for Contamination, Cause 1.5 Million Illnesses a Year

Nearly half the chicken products marketed by national brands and sold in supermarkets are contaminated with feces, according to laboratory test results of chicken samples from 15 grocery store chains in 10 major U.S. cities. The testing was conducted by an independent analytical testing laboratory at the request of the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

PCRM investigated chickens from Perdue, Pilgrim’s, and Sanderson Farms, as well as 22 other popular brands. Testing revealed that 48 percent of the chicken samples tested positive for fecal contamination, indicated by the presence of coliform bacteria commonly found in chicken dung. The bacterial species E. coli is a type of coliform bacteria and a specific indicator used by slaughter and processing plants to check for fecal contamination of food products and water.

Chicken samples from every city and every grocery store chain tested positive. In Dallas, 100 percent of the chicken bought at the Kroger’s store tested positive for fecal matter. In Washington, D.C., 83 percent of the chicken bought at a Giant store and 67 percent of the chicken bought at a Safeway tested positive. Samples were also tested in Charleston, S.C., Milwaukee, Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Miami, and San Diego.

“One in every two supermarket chickens is contaminated with feces,” says PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. “Meat packers can’t avoid contaminating poultry products during production, and consumers are cooking and eating chicken feces in about half the cases.”

Skinless chicken breast was particularly likely to have fecal traces, and both “organically produced” and “conventional” products were frequently contaminated.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now considering privatizing poultry inspection. The proposal would reduce the time poultry workers have to inspect each carcass for feces and could result in more contaminated chicken products reaching supermarket shelves.

The results of independent lab tests were as follows:

Fecal Contamination of Chicken Products in 10 U.S. Cities
City Grocery Store Chicken Products with Fecal Contamination
Charleston, S.C.
Harris Teeter
Chicago, Ill.
Dallas, Texas Albertsons
Denver, Colo.
Houston, Texas
Miami, Fla.
Milwaukee, Wis.
Pic ‘n Save
Piggly Wiggly
Phoenix, Ariz.
San Diego, Calif.
Washington, D.C.
* Indicates a store where retesting was performed; retesting found that 60 percent of the samples were positive for fecal contamination.

A 2009 USDA study found that 87 percent of chicken carcasses tested positive for E. coli after chilling and just prior to packaging. Every year, contaminated poultry products cause approximately 1.5 million illnesses, 12,000 hospitalizations, and 180 deaths. However, most people eating cooked chicken feces have no symptoms and are unaware of what they have ingested.

aquacultureU.S. scientists are are expressing concern about the potential of people contracting Creutzfeldt Jakob disease — the human form of “mad cow disease” — from eating farmed fish who are fed byproducts rendered from cows.  Mad cow disease, also called bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a fatal brain disease in cattle, which scientists believe can cause Creutzfeldt Jakob disease in humans who eat infected cow parts. There is no cure for Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.

 In the latest issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Dr. Robert P. Friedland, a neurologist at University of Louisville in Kentucky and colleagues suggest that farmed fish fed contaminated cow parts could transmit Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.

The scientists want government regulators to ban feeding cow meat or bone meal to fish until the safety of this common practice can be confirmed.

Read the rest of this entry »

food-inc-posterMake sure you add “Food, Inc.” to your must-see movie list this summer.  Filmmaker, Robert Kenner, reveals the real workings of our nation’s food industry. 

How much do we really know about the food we buy at our local supermarket and serve to our families?  It’s time to find out and be more informed about our food choices.

Watch the trailer: http://www.foodincmovie.com/

Also worth watching is this month’s NOW on PBS Interview with Robert Kenner: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/523/index.html

factory farm70 percent of all antibiotics produced in the U.S.  –  25 million pounds annually – are given to farm animals, not people. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions are the main reasons. Farm animals given antibiotics also need less food to grow.

To help prevent the development of “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotics, doctors commonly warn their patients that antibiotics should only be used for bacterial infections, and should be taken at the proper dosage for the full course of treatment.


Industrial farms violate these medical principles every day by feeding healthy animals low doses of antibiotics over long periods of time in order to speed up their growth and to compensate for unsanitary living conditions. This creates the ideal breeding ground for dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria to thrive and spread.

The misuse of antibiotics on industrial farms threatens the health of farm workers, communities and the public. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other leading medical groups agree that the growth of bacterial infections resistant to antibiotic treatment is a looming public health challenge. The groups also agree the misuse of antibiotics on industrial animal farms plays a significant role in this crisis.  While antibiotics are prescribed to people for short-term disease treatment, these same critically important drugs—like tetracycline, erythromycin and ciproflaxin—are fed in low doses to large herds or flocks daily, often for the lifespan of the animal. This creates ideal conditions for the breeding of new and dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Get the facts: Read the rest of this entry »

From the CDC:
In response to an intensifying outbreak in the United States and internationally caused by a new influenza virus of swine origin

From the World Health Organization:
Humans usually contract swine influenza from infected pigs, however, some cases lack contact history with pigs or environments where pigs have been located. Human-to-human transmission has occurred in some instances but was limited to close contacts and closed groups of people.

From other experts:
“Six of the eight genetic segments of this virus strain are purely swine flu and the other two segments are bird and human, but have lived in swine for the past decade,” says Dr. Raul Rabadan, a professor of computational biology at Columbia University.

“Scientifically this is a swine virus,” said top virologist Dr. Richard Webby, a researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Webby is director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza Viruses in Lower Animals and Birds. He documented the spread a decade ago of one of the parent viruses of this strain in scientific papers.

“It’s clearly swine,” said Henry Niman, president of Recombinomics, a Pittsburgh company that tracks how viruses evolve. “It’s a flu virus from a swine, there’s no other name to call it.”

Dr. Edwin D. Kilbourne, the father of the 1976 swine flu vaccine and a retired professor at New York Medical College in Valhalla, called the idea of changing the name an “absurd position.”


Following the outbreak of swine flu, Russia has now placed a ban not only on pork, but on beef and poultry from certain US states.

The ban applies to meat and poultry produced in California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas, where cases of influenza have been reported.

US officials insist that US trading partners have no legitimate health reason for banning imports of US meat.

“We’re trying to underscore the fact that actions taken to ban the importation of pork or beef from the US is not scientifically based, and could result in some serious trade disruptions,” said US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The US Meat Export Federation says it’s very concerned that Russia is now refusing to accept any non-heat-treated meat, including beef and poultry. The federation says there’s been a “demonstrated over-reaction”, according to ABC Rural.


Amid increasing international concern about the global swine flu outbreak, Food & Water Watch urged leaders of the U.S. Senate and House agriculture and health committees to investigate the serious human health problems caused by industrialized pork production. The national consumer advocacy organization submitted a letter to Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), asking their respective committees to hold hearings examining the source of the swine flu virus, the pathway for transmission between hogs and humans, and the conditions inside factory farms that could foster the growth and mutation of the influenza virus into more virulent strains.

“Factory farms have a long track record of maximizing volume and profit at the cost of human health and safe food,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch executive director. “The swine flu outbreak is unfortunately just the latest example of the negative public health impacts from intensive pork production.”

Food & Water Watch warned of other potential threats to human health, including the discovery at U.S. hog facilities of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) – the difficult to treat staph infection – and antibiotic-resistant E. coli on operations using non-therapeutic antibiotics. A third topic related to pork production that was brought to the committees’ attention is an illness suffered by pork processing plant workers in several states. Workers in pork plants, specifically the parts of the plant where hog brains were removed with compressed air, have suffered a rare and debilitating neurological condition.

“The public health issues of disease transmission, antibiotic resistant bacteria and worker health are critically important to rural communities, workers, and consumers and any research into these issues must be done in a way that is independent of any industry pressure,” said Hauter in the letter. “Congress needs to prioritize these topics for credible research that is funded and performed by public entities, not the pork industry or its trade associations.”

To view Food & Water Watch’s letter, please visit: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/swine-flu-letter

Seventy percent of all the antibiotics used in the United States are used as feed additives for chickens, hogs, and beef cattle. Antibiotic feed additives are used without a prescription to help animals grow slightly faster — and to compensate for crowded, often unsanitary conditions on industrial-scale farms.

Today the Livestock Subcommittee of House Agricultural Committee held a hearing on the animal use of antibiotics that failed to address the mounting body of scientific evidence concluding that the overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the number one public health problem facing the U.S., the crisis of antibiotic resistance.

Keep Antibiotics Working, a national coalition of health, consumer, progressive agricultural, environmental, humane, and other advocacy groups with more than ten million supporters noted that, despite the centrality of human health, the panels were dominated by veterinarians and industry representatives rather than medical or public health professionals.

The hearing was apparently intended to give the agriculture industry an opportunity to counter testimony in earlier hearings that highlighted the dangerous relationship between overuse of antimicrobials in animal agriculture and the rise in antibiotic resistance in humans.

Ignoring the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance in both human and animal medicine will not make it disappear,” said Dr. Margaret Mellon, Senior Scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists. Read the rest of this entry »

Behold the featherless chicken, created by Scientists at the genetics faculty at the Rehovot Agronomy Institute near Tel Aviv, Israel. The idea behind the development of this naked bird is that it will create a more ‘convenient’ and energy efficient chicken that can live in crowded environments like factory farms. Not growing feathers saves energy that can be used to grow meat.

Think there’s no way this sad version of a chicken could end up as your next meal? Think again. This past week the FDA opened the way for genetically engineered chickens, salmon, cows, and other fish and animals to move from the laboratory to your dinner table, unveiling an approval process that would classify the modified creatures as drugs. No labels will be required.

“There is no special labeling requirement simply because the animal itself was engineered,” says Randall Lutter, a deputy commissioner for policy.

FDA regulates GE animals under the “new animal drug” provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), FDA’s regulations for new animal drugs. Companies are not required to alert consumers when antibiotics, hormones, or other drugs are used in raising the animals.

The decision does not affect cloned animals or their offspring, which earlier this year were declared safe as a food source by the FDA.

Many experts fear that the proposed regulations do not go far enough to protect and reassure the public. In particular, they argue that the approval process would be highly secretive to protect the commercial interests of the companies involved and that the new rules do not place sufficient weight on the environmental impact of what many consider to be Frankenstein animals. Read the rest of this entry »

Starting Sunday, Russia, the top market for US chicken exports, will be banning imports from at least 19 US poultry plants. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the bans in an interview with CNN, citing what he said were ignored warnings about inspections.

“The inspection showed that many companies had not taken measures to remove flaws revealed during previous checks,” Russia’s agricultural regulator said in a news release.

The Russian Government also said the US uses too many antibiotics in chicken-rearing, and cited cases of salmonella found in recent imports.

Russia has imposed several temporary bans on pork and poultry from various US producers in recent years.

Plants affected include at least two owned by Tyson (the nation’s largest chicken producer), two from Sanderson Farms Inc. (the nation’s fourth largest chicken producer), a Jennie-O Turkey plant owned by Hormel Foods Inc., and other companies not named at this time. Read the rest of this entry »