Antibiotic Resistance: From Hospitals or Farms?

Antibiotic_resistant_bacteriaA viewpoint article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) online this month reports that antibiotic resistant infections have become “a global crisis.” The article reports that drug-resistant infections cause approximately 23,000 deaths every year in the United States; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is found in half of isolates from US hospitals; and a deadly bacteria called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has mutated from just 1 to 44 different strains within the last 10 years.

Publication of this article coincides with a report released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). This report describes new attempts to combat antibiotic resistance, including the following: basic science research to better understand mutating bacteria, improvement in diagnostic tools to distinguish between bacterial and nonbacterial illness, development of new antibiotics, and possibilities for new vaccines.

All of these approaches focus on the role of human medicine in the cause and cure of antibiotic-resistant infections. But this approach overlooks the biggest player in antibiotic abuse: factory farms. Almost 4 times as many antibiotics are given to animals in the United States than are given to humans.(1) These antibiotics are used to promote growth of livestock and prevent disease among animals raised in confined and unsanitary conditions.

Confined-animal-feeding-operationA report released by federal scientists in February 2013 showed that the majority of meat on supermarket shelves across the United States is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.(2) The Environmental Working Group then published an excellent summary and consumer meat-buying guide. The worst offender—ground turkey—contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81% of samples. 87% of all meat samples contained Enterococcus bacteria, which indicates fecal contamination. There is no question about this: factory-farmed meat is DIRTY.

The way this works is simple: antibiotics are unnecessarily given to livestock; bacteria become antibiotic-resistant; bacteria travel from farms to stores; and meat can cause untreatable illness.

Meats that are raised organically and without antibiotics are much less likely to be contaminated by antibiotic-resistant superbugs. If you choose to eat meat, purchasing meats that are sustainably raised will minimize your own exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and support a system of farming that will help solve the “global crisis” of antibiotic-resistance.

Visit the Environmental Working Group for their indispensible meat-buying guide.

 

1. Record High Antibiotic Sales for Meat and Poultry Production. The PEW Charitable Trust Web site. http://www.pewhealth.org/other-resource/record-high-antibiotic-sales-for-meat-and-poultry-production-85899449119. Accessed March 27, 2014.

2. FDA Announces Availability of the 2011 NARMS Retail Meat Annual Report. US Food and Drug Administration Web site. http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm335102.htm. Accessed March 27, 2014.

 

Dirtier than the Dirty Dozen: What Parents Need to Know about GMO

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This article is intended for all moms and dads who have heard of GMO’s but just haven’t taken the time to figure out why they matter. It is for those of you whose children eat bread, crackers, or cereal that are not certified organic. It is for those of you who have never thought twice about what brand of corn chips you have in your kitchen. If this does not describe you, then stop reading now.

You may have heard of the “dirty dozen” list of most contaminated produce. You may buy your children organic strawberries and apples. But pesticide residues are rapidly becoming the least of my worries.

There is a category of toxic foods that has been creeping into our food supply since the mid 1990’s. The safety of these foods has never been proven. They are called GMOs: Genetically Modified Organisms.

GMOs are made by forcing DNA from one organism (such as bacteria or viruses) into the DNA of another (such as soy, corn, or canola). This creates a food never before in the human food supply.

Two of the most prevalent genetically modified foods are soy and corn. They were introduced to the market in 1994 and 1996 respectively. How old were you then? I was 18 years old. And over the ensuing 18 years, the prevalence of these GMO crops has grown exponentially.

Currently more than 88% of all corn grown in the United States and 94% of all soy is genetically modified. This means that if you or your children are eating any foods containing corn or soy ingredients, you are eating GMOs.

But so what?

There is no requirement for long-term safety studies on either animals or humans before GMO foods appear on our grocery store shelves. Despite this laxity in regulation, the research that is available is enough to make anyone clear half of their pantry directly into the dumpster.

Here are a few things that we know about GMOs:

  • GMO foods contain proteins not found in natural foods that trigger allergic reactions. In fact soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK after GMO soy was introduced1.
  • GMO foods may also make you allergic to other foods. Mice fed genetically modified peas started reacting to a variety of other foods1.
  • The Bt toxin produced by GMO corn acts as a pesticide by puncturing holes in the stomachs of insects. It is now known to kill human kidney cells2.
  • This same Bt toxin produced in every cell of GMO corn has been found in the majority of pregnant women’s blood tested3.
  • GMO corn contains startling levels of formaldehyde4. Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer.
  • The only human study on GMO foods showed that genetically modified DNA could transfer to human gut bacteria and continue to function1. That’s right.  Our gut bacteria can become genetically modified. We do not know if this is ever reversible.
  • GMO foods have higher levels of pesticide and herbicide residues, especially the most commonly used herbicide, Roundup®5.
  • Roundup® cannot be washed off the food. It is sprayed on the fields and taken up into the edible parts of the plants.
  • Roundup® kills beneficial gut bacteria in humans6.
  • Roundup® may be linked with inflammatory bowel, obesity, depression, cancer, and even autism5.

If you want to eliminate genetically modified foods from your child’s diet, you have to start by trashing all of the non-organic processed foods including Cheerios®, Goldfish®, Capri-Sun®, and even Nature Valley® Granola Bars. A partial list of GMO ingredients commonly found in kids’ food is here:

  • Sugar (cane sugar and organic sugar are ok)
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup / Corn Syrup / Other Corn-derived ingredients
  • Soybean oil / Soy protein / Other Soy-derived ingredients
  • Canola oil
  • Vegetable oil or hydrogenated vegetable oil

Other ways to avoid GMOs is to purchase the following:

  • Certified Organic products
  • Products with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal

Today our children are part of a great experiment by biotech companies. They are the first generation to be born and raised on genetically modified food. What is their fate? I would rather not wait to see.

For more comprehensive information, please visit the following websites:

References:

  1. Smith, J.M. (2007) Genetic Roulette. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing. Pp. 50, 56, 130.
  2. Sirinathsinghii, Eva. “Bt Toxin Kills Human Kidney Cells” ISIS March 14, 2012. http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Bt_Toxin_Kills_Human_Kidney_Cells.php
  3. Aris, Aziz and Samuel Leblanc. “Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.” Reprod Toxicol. 2011 May;31(4):528-33. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623811000566
  4. Honeycutt, Zen. “Study Reveals GMO corn to be highly toxic.” April 15, 2013. http://www.momsacrossamerica.com/stunning_corn_comparison_gmo_versus_non_gmo
  5. Samsell, Anthony and Stephanie Seneff. “Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases.” Entropy 2013, 15(4), 1416-1463. http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416
  6. Smith, Jeffrey. “Roundup Damages Beneficial Gut Bacteria, Promotes Botulism and other Pathogens.” Spilling the Beans Newsletter May 8, 2013. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/posts/roundup-damages-beneficial-gut-bacteria/