How Factory Farms Are Pumping Americans Full of Deadly Bacteria and Pathogens
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KF: Is it contagious?
MG: Person-to-person transmission of salmonella can occur when an infected person's feces, unwashed from his or her hands, contaminates food during preparation or comes into direct contact with another person.
KF: Who is most at risk for serious illness or even death?
MG: More than half of all reported salmonella infections occur in children, who are especially susceptible to serious complications. Elderly and immunocompromised adults are also particularly vulnerable. In the United States, though, some strains of salmonella are growing dangerously resistant to up to six major classes of antibiotics, due in large part to the irresponsible factory farming practice of feeding millions of pounds of antibiotics to animals every year as a crutch to combat the stressful and overcrowded conditions of intensive animal agriculture systems. This puts everyone at risk.
KF: What is the overall solution to prevent these dangerous pathogens and bacteria?
MG: Over the last few decades new animal-to-human infectious diseases have emerged at an unprecedented rate. According to the World Health Organization, the increasing global demand for animal protein is a key underlying factor.
Swine flu is not the only deadly human disease traced to factory farming practices. The meat industry took natural herbivores like cows and sheep, and turned them into carnivores and cannibals by feeding them slaughterhouse waste, blood and manure. Then they fed people “downer” animals—those too sick to even walk. Now the world has mad cow disease.
In 2005 the world’s largest and deadliest outbreak of a pathogen called Strep. suis emerged, causing meningitis and deafness in people handling infected pork products. Experts blamed the emergence on factory farming practices. Pig factories in Malaysia birthed the Nipah virus, one of the deadliest of human pathogens, a contagious respiratory disease causing relapsing brain infections and killing 40 percent of people infected. Its emergence was likewise blamed squarely on factory farming.
The pork industry in the U.S. feeds pigs millions of pounds of human antibiotics every year just to promote growth in such a stressful, unhygienic environment, and now there are these multi-drug-resistant bacteria and we as physicians are running out of good antibiotic options. As the UK’s chief medical officer put it in his 2009 annual report, "Every inappropriate use of antibiotics in agriculture is a potential death warrant for a future patient."
In the short term we need to put an end to the riskiest practices, such as extreme confinement—gestation crates and battery cages—and the non-therapeutic feeding of antibiotics. We have to follow the advice of the American Public Health Association to declare a moratorium on factory farms and eventually phase them out completely. How we treat animals can have global public health implications.
KF: Sounds like part of the solution is to gravitate toward a vegetarian diet. Check out One Bite At a Timefor information on how to do it.
Kathy Freston is a health and wellness expert and a New York Times bestselling author. Her latest book is "The Quantum Wellness Cleanse: The 21-Day Essential Guide to Healing Your Body, Mind, and Spirit." She has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ellen, The View and Good Morning America. For more information visit www.kathyfreston.com.