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9 Nastiest Things In the Meat You Eat

Meat contaminants are not likely to go away because they stem from Big Meat's desire to maximize profits by growing animals faster.

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Since antibiotics are no longer doing the job, meat producers are getting creative. They are trying radiation, gases, nitrites and even sprays made of  viruses called bacteriophages to quell the germfest. Still, nothing has caused such reflexive revulsion as the news last year that meat scraps once  earmarked for pet food were being resurrected as "lean finely textured beef" (LFTB) also known as Pink Slime.

While the product looked like human intestines, what really turned the national stomach was that it was treated with puffs of ammonia to kill the bacterium E. coli. The public was also outraged that the Pink Slime was supplying the National School Lunch Program. Its main producer, Beef Products, Inc., announced it  was closing its production facilities, soon after the hoopla began.

But another cleaning product used in meat production is starting to make news: chlorine. According to the website, "99 percent of American poultry processors" cool their "birds by immersion in chlorinated water-chiller baths." The European Union and Russia are duking it out with US trade officials over the chlorine-dipped poultry that few Americans realize they are eating.

4. Hormones

Americans eat another product every day that the European Union doesn't want: beef. The  European Commission's Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures says the U.S.'s hormone-heavy beef production poses "increased risks of breast cancer and prostate cancer," citing cancer rates in countries that do and don't eat US beef. As with "lean finely textured beef," aka Pink Slime, Americans are blissfully unaware of the synthetic hormones zeranol, trenbolone acetate and melengestrol acetate that are part of the recipe for production of US beef.

Melengestrol acetate, which is  not withdrawn in the days before slaughter, is 30 times more active than natural progesterone, says the European Commission. The powerful estrogenic chemical, Zeranol, is associated with  early puberty and breast cancers charges the Breast Cancer Fund, a group dedicated to identifying and eliminating the environmental causes of cancer.

"Consumption of beef derived from Zeranol-implanted cattle may be a risk factor for breast cancer," agrees a recent article in the journal  Anticancer Research. And trenbolone acetate, a synthetic androgen? It is on scientists' radar because it masculinizes fish. Too bad the USDA is not as cautious as the European Commission.

5. Mad Cow Disease

Many people have forgotten about Mad Cow Disease, but the risks are far from gone, especially because the government has obfuscated. In its final report about the first US mad cow, found in December 2003, the government said "all potentially infectious product" from the deadly cow "was disposed of in a landfill in accordance with Federal, State and local regulations."

But the  San Francisco Chronicle reported that 11 restaurants received the meat. Big difference. The sources of the Mad Cow Disease seen in a second and third cow  were never found but the government protected the identities of the Texas and Alabama ranches and let them  sell beef again within a month. Mad Cow and related diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease in deer are transmitted by prions which are "rogue proteins" that are not destroyed by cooking, heat, autoclaves, ammonia, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, phenol, lye, formaldehyde, or radiation, and they remain in the soil, contaminating it for years.

Because Mad Cow Disease could destroy the US beef industry, officials are quick to dismiss possible human cases. When suspicious cases arise, officials call them "spontaneous" illnesses, not from eating bad meat—even before tests are in.

6. Asthma-Like Drugs

There is another way factory farmers make animals grow faster besides antibiotics and hormones. The asthma-like drug ractopamine is used in 45 percent of US pigs according to Bacon Bits, the Canadian Pork Industry newsletter. It's also used in 30 percent of ration-fed cattle and a growing number of turkeys. Unlike most livestock drugs, ractopamine is not withdrawn before the animals are slaughtered even though its  warning label says, "Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Not for use in humans. Keep out of the reach of children," and recommends protective clothing, gloves, eye wear and masks.

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