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    Archive for the ‘antibiotics’ Category

    Speaking With…: Dr. David Wallinga

    Last week, the FDA withdrew two 34 year-old proposals to limit the use of two non-therapeutic antibiotics (penicillin and tetracycline) in cattle feed, opting instead to recommend voluntary withdrawal.  This is particularly outrageous in light of the dozens of countries that have instituted these bans successfully.

    Upon hearing this latest bit of news, I got in touch with Dr. David Wallinga, a renowned expert in the link between the ubiquity of antibiotics in animal feed and increased human resistance to these drugs. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Wallinga at the American Dietetic Association annual conference this past October, where he was part of a point-counterpoint panel on that very issue.

    I wanted to get his thoughts on the FDA decision, as well as on the public health threats posed by antibiotics in cattle feed. His responses below:

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    You Ask, I Answer: Tofu Concerns

    iron-source-edamame-soybeans-lgI am a vegetarian and eat tofu, but I am hearing two things about tofu that are bothering me.

    1) Tofu has large amounts of antibiotics or other additives dangerous to the human body.

    2) In order to make tofu and fulfill the global need for tofu, the Brazilians have undertaken an incredible rate of slash and burn to clear fields to make way for planting of soybeans.

    What are your thoughts?

    — Barlow Humphreys
    Westchester, NY

    1) Tofu does not contain antibiotics.

    The use of antibiotics only comes into play with animals that have them mixed into their feed.

    Non-organic tofu contains pesticides, but there are no “dangerous additives” in soy products.

    2) Brazil is one of the world’s top producers of soy.

    It is certainly true that the increased demand for soy (along with corporate-owned genetically modified soy crops that can practically grow anywhere) have led to a staggering amount of deforestation there.

    That said (and please do not take this to mean I am dismissing that as unimportant) — meat production takes an even larger toll on the environment, as it requires the use of more land, significantly more water usage, and creates a larger amount of waste.

    One way to “pitch in”, from an environmental standpoint, is to purchase soy products made exclusively from soybeans that are not genetically modified, since non-GMO soybeans are usually grown more responsibly.

    Although over 90 percent of the world’s soybeans are genetically modified, most of those are used to make soy by-products (ie: soybean oil, soy protein isolate) used in processed food.

    When it comes to soy products, I recommend prioritizing tempeh (fermented soy) and edamame (picture alongside this post), as these are the most nutritious and less processed varieties.

    Next on the list are tofu and soy-based dairy products.

    Processed foods made largely with soy protein isolates (ie: soy chips, soy bars, soy burgers, soy protein powders) should be considered “occasional treats”.

    Soy can only be considered a health food when it is consumed in a minimally processed form.  A sprinkle of soy dust on a corn chip is hype, not health.

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    In The News: The Antibiotic Discussion That Makes ME Sick

    SuperStock_1538R-57462Today’s San Francisco Chronicle reports that “a New York congresswoman is trying to rally support for a federal bill that… bans feeding antibiotics to cattle, hogs and poultry to increase their growth.”

    It specifically demands that “in the absence of any clinical sign of disease, farmers be forbidden from using any of seven classes of antibiotics, including penicillin, tetracycline and macrolide for routine infection prevention.”

    The US Food and Drug Administration concedes that “giving anti-microbials to animals when they are not sick is inappropriate – and even worse, contributes to more drug-resistant infections in people.”

    The American Medical Association and Food & Drug Administration have also expressed their support for this bill.

    Sweet awesomeness, right?  Not quite.

    Many farms and ranchers — part of the ever-powerful agricultural and beef lobbies that appear to have Congress on puppet strings — have their own set of arguments against this bill, most of which are quite infuriating to read: increased prices of meat, higher rates of illness among cattle, animals who will be smaller in size and offer less meat if they become sick and eat less, etc.

    Talk about not addressing the real issue!

    Cattle and other animals get sick and need massive amounts of antibiotics because of their deplorable living conditions.

    Remember, most cows in this country spend their entire lives standing in one spot eating an unnatural diet of corn and grains until the day they are slaughtered.  Ironically, this is often sold as “all-natural” beef.

    This corn and grain diet is extremely unhealthy and makes cows very ill, hence the need for antibiotics in the feed.

    Why do farmers retort to such diets?  Two reasons, both of which come down to the almighty dollar:

    1. Since corn and wheat are subsidized by the government, they are extremely cheap.
    2. This feed bulks up cows, thereby allowing farmers to sell more pounds of meat

    As far as I’m concerned, this is even more of a reason to dispose of agricultural subsidies that do nothing towards health promotion (they are mostly used to feed cattle an unhealthy diet or to make lots of cheap high fructose corn syrup and oils used in nutritionally empty junk food).

    Anyone who believes the elimination of agricultural subsidies will result in millions of people going hungry MUST read this brief article that details what happened when New Zealand got rid of their crop subsidies in the mid 1980s.

    As for beef prices potentially increasing, I don’t see what the problem is.  There are endless sources of protein — just as afforable, if not more — other than red meat available in the food supply.

    It’s time to think about the real cost of food.  Is saving a dollar on meat worth the inhumane conditions these animals live in and the possible health complications for humans from having antibiotics in the food supply?

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    In The News: Which (Antibiotic) Came First? The (One Fed To The) Chicken Or The (One Injected Into) The Egg?

    Ready for a real doozy from the world of chicken raising, antibiotic feeds, and USDA policies?

    Alright, buckle up!

    It was reported earlier this week that Judge Richard D. Bennett of the United States District Court in Baltimore ordered chicken giant Tyson to pull all advertisements from their “chickens raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans” campaign by no later than May 18.

    Mind you, this campaign was originally billed as “chickens raised without antibiotics.” The United States Department of Agriculture happily gave it the green light.

    Until, that is, they went back and realized they had made a boo boo.

    Turns out Tyson includes antibiotic compounds known as ionophores in their chicken feed.

    Ionophores are commonly fed to chickens mainly as protection from a parasitic intestinal condition known as coccidiosis, as well as to help them gain weight.

    The USDA quickly drafted a letter to Tyson, notifying them that their “no antibiotics added” claim wasn’t entirely true. Consequently, they were asked to remove it from all packaging.

    Tyson rebutted by arguing that ionophores are classified by the Food & Drug Administration as antimicrobials, not antibiotics.

    Well, not quite. Although the FDA recognizes that ionophores have antimicrobial properties, they are technically antibiotics when used as part of chicken feeds.

    Tyson additionally claimed that ionophores are not a concern since they do not impact antibiotic resistance in humans, nor are they used in human drugs.

    After this back and forth, the claim was changed to “chickens raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans.”

    If you’re wondering why the use for such convoluted language, it’s simple.

    Tyson, like many other chicken companies, injects chicken eggs with antibiotics approximately 2 days before they hatch.

    Ergo, by using the word “raised,” they only advertise what happens with the chicken after it is born.

    Largely due to pressure from Tyson’s competitors (which claim Tyson is misleading consumers), this updated claim is now being axed.

    This specific case doesn’t so much revolve around the “rights” and “wrongs” of including ionophores in chickenfeed, but the idea of misleading advertising and technicalities.

    It is worth pointing out that as a result of increasing consumer need for antibiotic-free food, chicken farmers are considering viable alternatives, including vaccination against a variety of illnesses.

    What do you think? Was Tyson misleading? Do you specifically seek out antibiotic-free poultry?

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