While reading food labels is a great way to avoid unhealthy ingredients, the real poisons on our food are not listed on the labels. Meat and poultry can contain contaminants such as drug residue, chemicals, and pesticides that pose a serious health risk.
The National Residue Program (NRP) is administered by the Food Safety & Inspection Service in order to protect consumers from these hazards that are found on meat and poultry. The NRP tests food samples for offending contaminants. If they are present, the FSIS can then fine or shut down an establishment.
While this program should keep our food supply safe, recent findings by The Pew Charitable Trusts show otherwise. Potentially harmful deficiencies have been found.
Not Testing for All Harmful Substances
Not all chemicals that are potentially harmful are being monitored. Because some chemicals, like dioxins, do not have an established safe maximum concentration, they are not tested. However, these are known to cause serious health issues.
Low Standards for Selecting Monitored Compounds
NRP does not abide by their published risk ranking system. One chemical that should be a priority per their system but is not, is dexamethasone. This steroid hormone has been identified as high risk compared to other monitored compounds. This chemical may cause health problems such as spikes in the blood sugar levels of people with diabetes. NRP fails to explain why this chemical is not monitored.
The process of picking compounds to monitor is also inconsistent. It is unclear how the NRP which compounds to monitor. For example, dipyrone, a pain reliever, is ranked by the NRP as being one of the most toxic compounds, but it is not screened, yet lower compounds, such as fluoroquinolones, are.
Additionally, practices do not change to adapt to emerging health risks. New fuel production or animal feed is coming onto the market on a regular basis, but the processes for NRP have not changed.
The Thread of Pollutants from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
Oftentimes on farms, animals are overcrowded into a small area, resulting in their co-habitation with their own waste. This sends dangerous pollution into the water supply.
Lagoons on factory-farm also emit toxic gases like ammonia, methane, and hydrogen sulfide. Additionally, the manure gets sprayed onto the land as fertilizer which brings more harmful chemicals into our environment.
Law loopholes have allowed farms to avoid pollution regulations. For example, a seven acre lagoon may hold just under 50 million gallons of waste water. The lagoon’s waste can easily leak and overflow, and if it does not, then it still releases toxic gases.
E. Coli Contaminating Produce
Vegetables are often grown too close to CAFOs, contaminating the produce with E.Coli. While guidelines require produce to be planted at least 394 feet from animal feedlots, research has shown that this is not nearly enough space. Because produce such as leafy greens are consumed raw, they have a large potential to create illness.
Costs of CAFO Related Food Poisoning are Underrated
Only reported cases get factored into the costs of food poisoning. People often do not report food poisoning to a doctor, and while this can lead to long term effects such as kidney failure or irritable bowel syndrome, only a relative handful of cases are taken into consideration. For example, people who are infected with salmonella might have just a small reaction, but it could lead to reactive arthritis, affecting the joints.
Finding Chemical-Free Meat
Naturally-raised, organic, pastured meat is the healthy option. Grocery stores often carry these, but you can also contact your local farmer or farmer’s market to get this type of safe food.
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