After an eight month investigation, food activists have produced evidence that Farmer John, one of California's largest pig farms and a subsidiary of Hormel, is using the carcinogenic antibiotic carbadox in the production of its pork products. The antibiotic is so linked to cancer, in April the FDA proposed removing it from the market to "reduce the lifetime risk to consumers."
Photographic evidence released by the international network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) after many on-site visits also reveals the use of the antibiotics neomycin, gentamicin, tetracycline and penicillin at the Corcoran, CA Farmer John pig facility in products labeled "California Natural" that claim "no artificial ingredients." DxE found dangerous bacteria at the facility including antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
The FDA has asked meat producers to stop using antibiotics to add quick weight to animals and to only use them on animals that are actually sick. But food safety experts say the "sick animal" request is a loophole and use is actually increasing.
In fact, Farmer John/Hormel spokesmen Lidwina M. van Kooten cited just such a sick animal use in an email to me this week about the DxE findings. Farmer John/Hormel animal care "does include the judicious use of approved antibiotics to care for animals that need to be treated" she wrote but denied routinely using antibiotics.
Which are the ill animals being "treated" one wants to ask van Kooten after looking at DxE's report. The piglet so sick it is literally being eaten alive? The feces-covered pigs with gashes and abscesses the size of tennis balls? The pigs with untreated prolapses of the uterus, rectum and intestines and panting animals trying to breathe packed shoulder to shoulder? Are there any animals at Farmer John's that aren't sick?
Food and animal activists condemn antibiotic use in livestock operations because it enables crowded, abusive and unsanitary conditions that would not be possible without the drugs--a fact meat producers concede. Farming without antibiotics "would result in a decrease in density or an increase in the amount of land needed," industry representatives admitted on Capitol Hill during hearings about reducing antibiotic use.
But you do not have to be an animal lover to object to massive antibiotic use. It produces deadly antibiotic resistant bacteria like MRSA, Clostridium difficile, VRE, KPC, CRE and resistant Acinetobacter baumannii from which 23,000 people die a year says the CDC. Antibiotic resistant bacteria have caused 19,056 infections in children and infants said the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2015--4,200 were hospitalized and 80 died.