In 2014, the FDA tried regulation again, proposing a voluntary plan in which drug makers would agree to remove the use of "growth promotion and feed efficiency" on antibiotic labels and the drugs would only be used to prevent disease. Did the government really think Big Pharma and Big Meat would undercut their own profits and meat producers would comply?
Soon after the announcement, Senior Staff Scientist at Consumers Union Dr. Michael Hansen told me it was likely Big Pharma would simply replace "growth production" with "disease prevention" on the labels and continue the routine antibiotic use. Cattle producers could continue to feed grain instead of grass to animals even thought it produces more liver abscesses, then treating them with the antibiotic Tylosin to "prevent disease," he told me.
The FDA's 2014 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals, shows domestic sales and distribution of livestock cephalosporins increased by 57 percent between 2009 through 2014, antibiotics like clindamycin by 150 percent and antibiotics like gentamicin by 36 percent. Thanks for nothing, FDA.
4. Mad Cow Disease is Not Gone
There is probably no disease Big Food fears as much as "mad cow," a fatal, incurable highly contagious disease transmitted by particles called prions that are not killed by heat, ammonia, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, phenol, lye, formaldehyde or even radiation. They are said to remain infectious in the soil for years.
Within 24 hours of discovery of the first USDA's mad cow in 2003, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Korea, and 90 other countries banned US beefwiping out 98 percent of the $3 billion dollar overseas beef market.
Subsequent mad cow scares have caused the some of the biggest beef recall s in US history, terrified medical patients (when news of a patient with a related human brain disorder, CJD, in a hospital surfaces) and destroyed futures markets in minutes. Driving the panic are questions about how cows get the disease, whether the feed is safe and where herd mates and offspring are. But in recent years, Big Food has mitigated the problem by terming new mad cow cases "atypical"meaning they "just happen." Since the pathogenesis is spontaneous, the feed sources and herd mates no longer have to be traced and the story will soon drop from the news and consumers' concerns.
Yet the disease is far from gone. In 2015, a likely new case of mad cow turned up in Ireland and both Norway and Canada reported "atypical" cases. The same year, two people died from the mad cow-related version of CJD in Italy and Tampa had two cases of CJD whose origins were not determined. In 2016 a suspected mad cow was found in France.
5. Bird Flu and Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus Worse Than Reported
Do you remember the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) outbreak in 2013 or the bird flu epidemic of 2015? Chances are no because Big Food managed to prevent the public from seeing dumpsters full of the dead livestock lest people ask what is happening on factory farms, why are so many animals sick, what drugs are they taking and why should we eat products from such sick animals? News report instead focused on farmers' financial losses, price increases in the products and farmers' needs to "restock." But the animal toll was heart breaking.
At least one tenth of US pigs died in 2013 and 2014 from PEDv. Almost 50 million flu-stricken and euthanized chickens and turkeys died in 2015, "piled up in dumpsters, attracting flies and emitting a stench. Only recently has the disposal crisis abated, with the help of round-the-clock incinerators and crews in hazmat suits," reported Fortune. While egg layers were dosed with carbon monoxide, floor-reared turkeys and broiler chickens were herded into an enclosed area and administered a propylene glycol foam that suffocates them.
Neither of the outbreaks are gone. In early 2016, the bird flu was back at an Indiana turkey farm where all the birds were slaughtered and their carcasses destroyed. Pork producers say PEDv will likely never be gone in the US and other diseases also loom.
Cheap, factory farmed food is far from cheap. It spreads disease among humans and animals, harms the earth and is a blight on the agricultural industry.