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My IFAP Flu and More E. Coli October 13, 2009

Filed under: Nutritional Wellness — aprasek @ 1:23 pm

It's Toxic Up in Here!

Dr. Kenneth Petersen, an assistant administrator with the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said that the department could mandate testing, but that it needed to consider the impact on companies as well as consumers. “I have to look at the entire industry, not just what is best for public health,” Dr. Petersen said.

So, I was sick all weekend. And as I lay defeated on the couch, hour after hour, I kept wondering how I got this little bug. OK, so I go to the U of MN which is a huge school… that’s probably where I got this nasty thing.

People kept asking me, “Do you have H1N1?”

Well, I’m not sure, my insurance deductible is so high it would cost me my rent and my car payment to find out (not to mention any treatment or Pharms). So, I began to imagine. What if I had H1N1…

I first thought, this is BS. I don’t have H1N1, I have swine flu. Seriously, the name was just changed to protect the pork industry. But, I can honor that. Not all pork farmers should get thrown under the stampede. Consider Polyface Farms— remember Polyface farmer Joel from Food Inc.? I love him! So, it’s not the ethical, humane pig farmers that are the problem, it’s actually the “Industrial Farm Animal Production” (IFAP) systems that are the problem.

So, I’ve decided that I had the IFAP flu.

IFAP is the system that produces the majority of meat eaten in the U.S. today. Picture a gaunt, muddy landscape with one big fence and a few barns. Contained in those fences and barns are an obscene number of animals with little room to turn around, let alone practice any sort of natural pig, cow or chicken behavior. That’s how the IFAPs work. More animals + less space = more money.

A recent project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health assessed the impact that IFAPs have on our world. The report produced from this work is shocking. It clearly states the problems with pathogen transfer and infectious disease from IFAP:

The potential for pathogen transfer from animals to humans increased in IFAP because so many animals are raised together in confined areas.

Among the many ways that infectious agents can evolve to become more virulent or to infect people are numerous transmission events and co-infection with several strains of pathogens. For this reason, IFAP facilities that house large numbers of animals in very close quarters can be a source of new or more infectious agents. Healthy or asymptomatic animals may carry microbial agents that can infect and sicken humans, who may then spread the infection to the community before it is discovered in the animal population.

But, infectious diseases aren’t the only problems traveling out of IFAPs. The report also highlights the following concerns: Generation of novel viruses; Feed and Pathogen risk (addition of antimicrobrials and industrial and animal wastes into feed resulting in concerns like bovine spongiform encephalopathy); Nontherapeutic antimicrobial use and resistance (antibiotic resistance); Occupational health impacts; Community health effects (research has identified significant health concerns for those living near IFAP facilities: air pollution, asthma, depression, fatigue, negative mood states, memory problems).

Check out the report for yourself. If you eat meat, this is extremely important information to be aware of so that you can shop smart and eat safely.

The Pew and Johns Hopkins project also identified concerns with food-borne infections. E. Coli is one of the most famous of all the food-borne pathogens. A recent NYT article, “E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection” is a must-read on these concerns.

Yet stories like Stephanie Smith’s (the young woman in the NYTs article who was paralyzed after eating a hamburger), don’t seem to phase these companies or even the USDA. The quote at the top of this post from Mr. Petersen is proof of this (“I have to look at the entire industry, not just what is best for public health”.)

Here are a few more posts on the concerns of IFAPs and how you can shop smarter:

The Weekend Special: E. Coli with Cheese

Tainted Food, American Style

The U.S. “Regulated” Meat Industry

What’s on Your Food?

Chief of Steak

Food Inc. is Coming!

The Meat Mafia


2 Responses to “My IFAP Flu and More E. Coli”

  1. Melissa Says:

    Thanks so much for posting the Pew Charitable Trust Report. I’ve been completely engrossed in it. I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin in the 1970’s. The food we ate came from our back yard. We drank milk from our cows and ate meat from the animals on our own farm and from those of the fellow farmers down the road. It has upset me to see what has happened in the last 20 years. My father sold our farm in 1993 and while a nice family moved into our big old house, the large beautiful barn sits empty and I’m not sure what has happened to the land that we owned.

    The report has made me realize even more how important it is to make the right choices when it comes to what we put on the table.

  2. Aimee Says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences Melissa. It must have been wonderful to grow up on a dairy farm! I visited an organic dairy farm in WI last year and fell in love with it. Though I really don’t consume dairy, it was so wonderful to see the care and love that was going to the animals and ultimately into the product. Such a model of how all of our food should be tended and prepared.

    Awesome that you dug through the Pew report. It really is fascinating isn’t it? It is amazing how far we’ve separated ourselves from food in only 20 years. Hopefully, we can look to this more recent history to guide us back to a relationship with our food. I think the shift is happening…

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