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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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Recently, the US Department of Agriculture  announced plans to "relax" federal meat and poultry inspections, allowing meat processors greater leeway in policing themselves, already the agricultural trend. Most food activists ask how standards could be relaxed any further when drug residues, heavy metals, cleaning supplies, gasses, nitrites, hormones and other unwanted guests contaminate the meat supply. They are almost all unlabeled.

Is seafood safer? Dream on. Mercury-filled tuna is what inspired Fischer Stevens to make the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, about the Japanese dolphin-fishing industry when he  personally came down with mercury poisoning. The Chicago Tribune, New York Times and Consumer Reports have reported high mercury levels in almost all red lean and fatty tuna tested, in recent years.

Aquaculture is so festooned with antibiotics, veterinary drugs and pesticides that it can make factory farming look green. Commercial shrimp production, for example, "begins with urea, superphosphate, and diesel, then progresses to the use of piscicides (fish-killing chemicals like chlorine and rotenone), pesticides and antibiotics (including some that are banned in the U.S.), and ends by treating the shrimp with sodium tripolyphosphate (a suspected neurotoxicant), Borax, and occasionally caustic soda," says a  review of the book, Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood.

Meat contaminants are not likely to go away because they stem from Big Meat's desire to maximize profits by growing animals faster, squeezing them into small living spaces and keeping meat looking "fresh" on store shelves longer. Here is a list of the worst offenders.

1. Antibiotics

Most people know that antibiotics are part of the diet of US livestock to make them grow faster (feed is metabolized more efficiently) and prevent disease outbreaks in cramped conditions. But they'd  be surprised at how many animals destined for the dinner table have drug residues that exceed legal limits.  Each week the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finds dangerous antibiotic levels in animals including penicillin, neomycin and "sulfa" and "cipro" drugs, many from "repeat violators."

Excessive levels are also found of risky antibiotics like tilmicosin,  whose label tells the farmer, "Not for human use. Injection of this drug in humans has been associated with fatalities," and  gentamicin, which the FDA, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Association of Bovine Practitioners warn against using at all, except under rare circumstances. Unlike bacteria which antibiotics are supposed to kill, "No amount of cooking will destroy [drug] residues" says a  USDA Office of the Inspector General report.

2. Bacteria

You'd think with the antibiotic party going on, meat would be free of bacteria. You'd be wrong. Bacteria are rife in conventionally grown US meat including antibiotic-resistant bacteria also known as superbugs. Almost half of beef, chicken, pork and turkey in samples tested from US grocery stores contained staph bacteria reported the  Los Angeles Times in 2011—including the resistant MRSA staph bacterium (methicillin-resistant S. aureus). Pork tested by  Consumer Reports in 2013 also contained MRSA and four other kinds of resistant bacteria.

Two serious strains of antibiotic-resistant salmonella, called Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Hadar, forced recent recalls of turkey products from  Jennie-O Turkey and Cargill and chicken products from  Schreiber Processing Corporation. The resistant salmonella strains were so deadly, officials warned that disposed meat should be in sealed garbage cans to  protect wild animals. Even wildlife is threatened by the factory farm-created scourges.

MRSA is no longer limited to healthcare settings, either. Researchers have found it on  Florida public beaches and on the top of unopened soft drink cans in a car that was  following a poultry truck.

3. Cleaning Products

 
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