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The Truth About Where Your Food Comes From | Part 3

In the past three weeks, I have described what confined feeding animal operations (or CAFOs) were and how detrimental they are to the animals who are concentrated within. Most of what we know comes from journalists who do the detective work to get this information out into the public. This month, I want to specifically address the human impact CAFOs have on the future of our health.

 

THE UNPRECEDENTED RISE IN ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE

Given the ease of transmission and rapid spread of disease—spurred by animal confinement practices on factory farms—it’s no wonder why farmers have increasingly become more willing to treat their livestock with various pharmaceuticals. 

Intense practices on CAFOs seek to primarily enhance growth of illness.  Farmers often use antibiotics to decrease an animal’s risk of bacterial infection and prophylactically treat for potential outbreaks. To help animals  achieve a desirable weight before being sent to the slaughterhouse, farmers will often give animals antibiotics and hormonal therapy (34) This has led to “world-changing risk to public health” on our hands due to excess use of antibiotics, hormones, and other synthetic pharmaceuticals to animals (35). 

At present, 81% of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to livestock for non-therapeutic purposes (36), while 10% are for therapeutic human purposes, and 9% are for pets. There are serious long-term consequences from flippant, round-the-clock antibiotic administration practices since antibiotic-resistance pathogens develop within two to three years of introducing a new antibiotic to the marketplace (37). 

Note that two processes are occurring simultaneously: drug-resistant bacteria surviving in livestock and drug-resistant bacteria surviving in humans who eat said livestock products that contain leftover antibiotic resides (38-44). Drug-resistant bacteria and their conquered antibiotic residues enter the food supply together. Both are exposures that put people at risk for developing illnesses caused by drug resistant strains of bacteria and viruses such as Coronavirus COVID-19. Such infections can potentially be fatal when conventional treatment protocol are now often rendered less effective (37). 

The unprecedented rise in life-threatening infections, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, is due to the fact that we are addicted to excess animal protein consumption and are running out of reliable and effective antibiotics to treat these infections (45,46). As a result, various bacterial and viral infections are becoming nearly untreatable in humans (47). Nevertheless, CAFOs’ antibiotic procedures continue business as usual.

This phenomenon is well supported in the scientific literature. 

The two most common gram-negative bacterial species studied, Campylobacter and Salmonella are naturally found in soil but not conductive to animal and human health.  They are now easily infecting animals, and being passed from animals to humans predominantly in animal protein consumption. Antimicrobial resistance against multiple antibiotics in swine, cattle, and other animals has been highly correlated with resistance in humans (49). 

Moreover, one doesn’t even have to eat these food products to be negatively impacted, per se. Living near high-density pig operations is associated with methicillin-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus (i.e. MRSA) (50). If it’s in the air, it’s eventually inhaled into your body.

It’s likely we don’t know the full scope CAFOs have on the emergence of drug resistance, especially when you consider groundwater infiltration, cross-contamination, and packaging contamination. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) conservatively estimates that 23,000 United States citizens die annually from antibiotic-resistant infections (46), but actual deaths may be four times higher (51). 

For a select number of drug-resistant infections, the global death toll is estimated to rise from its current total of 700,000 deaths per year to 100 million by 2050. This will surpass deaths from cancer.52 According to the CDC report, more deaths are now attributed to MRSA infections than HIV/AIDS in the U.S (43).

Of the two million Americans who develop antibiotic-resistant infections annually, prolonged illness is common, and patients may suffer lifelong repercussions after the onset of the illness (i.e. disfigurement, chronic pain, and disablement). Beyond the individual impact, antibiotic resistance is unique in that is poses a threat to national and economic security (53). 

Drug-resistant infections in the U.S. costs more than $55 billion each year in excess medical costs due to more expensive versions of antibiotics required, longer durations in hospitals, and more intensive care throughout hospitalizations, as well as lost productivity (46). 

This extends to the world of surgery as well. Procedures that can be complicated by infections include joint replacement, Cesarean delivery, dialysis, and chemotherapy. While physicians have generally maintained confidence that there would be an antibiotic available, this is no longer true in many cases. Weighing the risks of such procedures should now be conducted with the utmost scrutiny. 

The same is true for animals in CAFOs: rearing poultry, cattle, and pigs successfully is dependent on having antibiotics available that work for them when they are sick, too. Yet, this reliance on a now ostensible cornerstone of modern medicine is in jeopardy. 

Be smarter. Vote with your dollar and do not support CAFOs for you and your family’s sake. The decisions we make today will impact every generation to come.

 

Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health and that of the Planet.

Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concerns.  And we take it a step further. We understand how you fit into the environment around you.  We help our patients reverse disease by better understanding how the body optimally functions and providing personalized treatment plans—a plan that removes a lot of the common food items that are making them sick.  To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.

References

  1. Factory Farmed Cows. The National Humane Education Society. Retrieved from: https://www.nhes.org/animal-info-2/factory-farmed-animals-2/factory-farmed-cows/ on Nov. 21, 2019.
  2. Elizabeth Grossman, Absent Federal Policy, States Take Lead on Animal Welfare. Civil Eats. (Feb. 15, 2017). Retrieved from: https://civileats.com/2017/02/15/absent-federal-policy-states-take-lead-on-animal-welfare/ on Nov. 21, 2019.
  3. Factory Farming and Human Health. Farm Sanctuary. Retrieved from https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory-farming/factory-farming-and-human-health/ on Nov. 21, 2019.
  4. Phasing Out Certain Antibiotic Use in Farm Animals, U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/phasing-out-certain-antibiotic-use-farm-animals on Nov. 21, 2019.
  5. Oliver, S. P., Maki, J. L., & Dowlen, H. H. (1990). Antibiotic residues in milk following antimicrobial therapy during lactation. Journal of food protection, 53(8), 693-696.
  6. Van Poucke, L. S. G., Depourcq, G. C. I., & Van Peteghem, C. H. (1991). A quantitative method for the detection of sulfonamide residues in meat and milk samples with a high-performance thin-layer chromatographic method. Journal of chromatographic science, 29(10), 423-427.
  7. Mitchell, J. M., Griffiths, M. W., McEwen, S. A., McNab, W. B., & Yee, A. J. (1998). Antimicrobial drug residues in milk and meat: causes, concerns, prevalence, regulations, tests, and test performance. Journal of food protection, 61(6), 742-756.
  8. Tajick, M. A., & Shohreh, B. (2006). Detection of antibiotics residue in chicken meat using TLC. International journal of poultry science, 5(7), 611-612.
  9. Reig, M., & Toldrá, F. (2008). Veterinary drug residues in meat: Concerns and rapid methods for detection. Meat science, 78(1-2), 60-67.
  10. Darwish, W. S., Eldaly, E. A., El-Abbasy, M. T., Ikenaka, Y., Nakayama, S., & Ishizuka, M. (2013). Antibiotic residues in food: the African scenario. Japanese Journal of Veterinary Research, 61(Supplement), S13-S22.
  11. Er, B., Onurdağ, F. K., Demirhan, B., Özgacar, S. Ö., Öktem, A. B., & Abbasoğlu, U. (2013). Screening of quinolone antibiotic residues in chicken meat and beef sold in the markets of Ankara, Turkey. Poultry science, 92(8), 2212-2215.
  12. Chen, L., Todd, R., Kiehlbauch, J., Walters, M., & Kallen, A. (2017). Notes from the Field: Pan-Resistant New Delhi Metallo-Beta-Lactamase-Producing Klebsiella pneumoniae-Washoe County, Nevada, 2016. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 66(1), 33-33.
  13. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/threatreport-2013/pdf/ar-threats-2013-508.pdf on Nov. 21, 2019.
  14. Factory Farming and Human Health. Farm Sanctuary. Retrieved from:  https://www.farmsanctuary.org/learn/factory- farming/factory-farming-and-human-health/ on Nov. 21, 2019.
  15. McDermott, P. F., Bodeis, S. M., English, L. L., White, D. G., Walker, R. D., Zhao, S., ... & Wagner, D. D. (2002). Ciprofloxacin resistance in Campylobacter jejuni evolves rapidly in chickens treated with fluoroquinolones. The Journal of infectious diseases, 185(6), 837-840.
  16. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2012). Guidance for Industry #209: THE JUDICIOUS USE OF MEDICALLY IMPORTANT ANTIMICROBIAL DRUGS IN FOOD-PRODUCING ANIMALS 17. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/media/79140/ download on Nov. 21, 2019.
  17. Klein, E., Smith, D. L., & Laxminarayan, R. (2007). Hospitalizations and deaths caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, United States, 1999–2005. Emerging infectious diseases, 13(12), 1840.
  18. Spellberg, B., Hansen, G. R., Kar, A., Cordova, C. D., Price, L. B., & Johnson, J. R. (2016). Antibiotic resistance in humans and animals. NAM Perspectives.
  19. O’neill, J. I. M. (2014). Antimicrobial resistance: tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations. Rev. Antimicrob. Resist, 20, 1-16.
  20. Builder, M. (2014). Antimicrobial Resistance as an Emerging Threat to National Security. Atlantic Council. Retrieved from: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/report/antimicrobial-resistance-as-an-emerging-threat-to-national-security/ on Nov. 21, 2019.
Author
Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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