Last night saw the premiere of a terrific Frontline PBS documentary on antibiotic resistant bacteria in meat as a result of overuse of subtherapeutic antibiotics by the American meat industry.
Fun Fact: this morning, POLITICO reported that industry “prepared” for the event by shelling out a large chunk of money to drive web related searches on the issue to their sites.
Yesterday, too, OnEarth published a fascinating post detailing how the modern antibiotic crisis started with the same people behind Spam.
The post is an excerpt of OnEarth’s editor-at-large Ted Genoways’ new book, The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food which we look forward to reading.
- “In 1937, at the height of the Great Depression, Jay C. Hormel had an idea that would change the way America eats. For decades, his family’s Minnesota meatpacking company had discarded thousands of pounds of pork shoulder deemed unworthy of the effort required to cut it off the bone. But Jay, the company’s president, wagered that cheap labor could be combined with cheap meat to create a new source of profit. At his instruction, Hormel’s meat scientists devised a system for cooking the loose scraps of pork shoulder into a loaf, packaged it in a modern-looking square can, and gave it a catchy name: Spam.”
- “After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Hormel secured a contract to supply Spam to every hungry GI around the world. But now Jay had a brand-new problem: supply. If the company was going to keep pace, it needed to increase production, which meant it needed more pork. Jay invited a group of medical researchers from the University of Minnesota to his estate and proposed turning a large horse barn on the grounds into a laboratory space, where researchers could work on finding ways to improve hog production—making the animals bigger and fatter as quickly as possible. A year later, Jay announced the opening of the Hormel Institute, where the dangerous modern practice of feeding antibiotics to pigs and other livestock—not to cure illness but to increase their growth rate and squeeze them into increasingly crowded conditions—was born.”
- “What looked like a dream come true to Hormel and his stockholders has, in the 65 years since, transformed U.S. livestock production into a nightmare of overcrowded conditions and a breeding ground for “superbugs”—antibiotic-resistant bacteria that grow in the guts of swine and other animals, then pass into the human population via hog manure.”
- “Last fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that antibiotic resistance was responsible for 14,000 U.S. deaths every year and rising, and said there was a very real chance antibiotics could lose all effectiveness if doctors didn’t stop overprescribing them to patients and farmers didn’t cut back on feeding them to livestock for growth enhancement. This summer, CDC Director Thomas Frieden warned that drug-resistant bacteria could bring about “the next pandemic.”
- “In 2008, U.S. hog farmers began reporting a rash of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA. The bacteria often takes hold in humans via minor skin infections, but because it is resistant to antibiotics, it can lead to pneumonia or life-threatening infections of the bloodstream. Health officials worried that the illness, which was already prevalent among hogs in Europe and other parts of North America, had spread to herds in the United States and could jump to human hosts. A representative for the National Pork Producers Council told a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that there was “nothing to worry about.” No cases of MRSA had been found among pigs on “this side of the border,” he said, claiming that the USDA and CDC had issued “our pigs a clean bill of health.” But the CDC immediately denied having ever made any such statement.”
What does the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have to say on this public health nutrition issue? Very little. And we expect the silence to continue:
As the photograph you see above (a page in the most recent issue of the Academy’s academic journal) shows, animal global pharmaceutical company Elanco is the sole sponsor of the Academy Foundation Nutrition Symposium, titled “The RDNs [sic] Guide to Plentiful, Nutrient Dense Food for the World.” And, yes, that is PepsiCo you see as the sponsor for the Kids Eat Right breakfast (more on that tomorrow).
In case you missed it, DFPI Strategic Director Andy Bellatti detailed the new Elanco-Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ties in this recent Civil Eats piece.
Sad. Another missed opportunity for the Academy to genuinely inform Americans about an issue that has many in the public health nutrition realm legitimately concerned.