The risk for bacterial infections from animal foods is high. Well known bacteria such as E. coli, Camphylobacter, and Salmonella, as well as such diseases as BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), BLV (bovine leukemia virus), and BIV (bovine immunodeficiency virus) are generally not found in a plant-based diet. However, infections from plants can still occur if not washed properly, or if they have come in contact with meat harboring such bacteria. This is more common in restaurants that have meat on the menu and use the same areas for their meats as they do for their vegetables. The same thing can occur in the average household that uses the same cutting board for meat as is used for vegetables.
All countries and all types of poultry housing have high levels of salmonella. Samples of recycled chicken protein going into feed contained this bacteria found also in droppings, in the ovaries of laying hens, in egg yolks, and in the trucks that haul the birds. Researchers are also discovering that when samples were taken of thirteen different strains of salmonella, 84% were resistant to at least one antibiotic, and more than half of them were resistant to more than three drugs. A significant number proved resistant to nine drugs, including ceftriaxone, most often used to treat children with salmonella infections.
Typhoid fever is caused by the Salmonella organism and can be fatal in about 3% of the cases. Usually, a person will gain immunity from the experience, but there are those who become carriers, infecting others, usually through their handling of food. Some are also known to have regular recurrences of this disease as one would with malaria, which seems to be common in Mexico. The typhoid bacillus will often lodge in the gallbladder as well as the intestine. Sometimes, when the gallbladder is removed, the person ceases to be a carrier.
Trichinosis is still found in most parts of the world, with the exception of Australia and the Pacific islands, and is still relatively common in Europe and the United States. The main source of this disease is insufficiently cooked pork. The worms develop in the intestine, and the larvae moves to other parts of the body often lodging in the brain, causing death.
It is still within the law in many countries to use all of the dead animals as feed for other animals. The ammonia of the excretment gradually converts to nitrates that leech into the water. Bacteria abound and are carried to other animals – both domestic and wild. Humans eat from the same food chain, and their excrement is sent back into the cycle. Under one out of every 250,000 slaughtered animals is tested for toxic chemical residues.
Most chicken is diseased, but inspectors are not allowed to report adverse findings. Labs are refusing to test even the few samples they receive because “an extremely high percentage would test positive,” says lab manager Brian Shelton of Pathogen Control Associates (Robbins). Dr. Norman Stern of the USDA in Athens, Georgia agreed, stating that the bacteria campylobacter would be found on at least 98% of the chickens in Georgia – and that state is indicative of others.
There are over 6 billion animals raised each year in the United States alone. Most of the cattle, swine, and poultry are raised for human consumption. This is thirty times the total human population of the US and more than the number of humans in the world. These animals receive antibiotics in their feed to the tune of 20 million pounds per year, twice the amount used for humans. In the US alone, 70% of the penicillin produced is used in factory farming. Antibiotics are not only used for animals, but fruit and vegetable growers are adopting the practice of mixing them into the fertilizers and spraying them directly onto plants. This is commonplace in fruit orchards, with some even injecting antibiotics directly into the tree trunks. This indiscriminant use of antibiotics is beginning to cause concern among consumers because overuse is producing resistant strains of bacteria sure to cause new diseases in the future. This is just one reason that vegetarians are now being forced into becoming more selective in their choices of foods and opting for organically grown produce.
The fish industry is not exempt from anitiotic use either. Fish farms use them prophylactically for catfish, trout, and salmon populations cultivated for human consumption. By law, this practice is supposed to be curtailed several weeks before sale, but fish are inspected only sporatically and are not protected against the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that may be present.
Farmed fish may also contain lice, which is not only distressing, but also commercially disastrous. Several applications may be needed of the drug dichlorvos from the organophosphorus compounds. It has been known to survive in waters for weeks at a time, killing many marine organisms. Farmed fish are pinker or more orange than those in the wild. They are also oilier and contain much less of the desirable omega 3 fatty acids and more of the omega 6’s than wild salmon.
Because of red meat controversy, people are encouraged to turn to fish. However, shellfish are carriers of lead, cadmium, arsenic, and other heavy metals. In addition, raw shellfish carry microbes, toxins, and parasitic worms. Large fish (halibut, tuna, swordfish, shark, and marlin) are laden with mercury. Trout, carp, catfish, bass, bluefish, mackerel tend to have high levels of PCB’s. Cod, haddock, pollock, and salmon seem to be safer choices, as long as they have not been raised in farms and have been handled properly from catch to stove without coming in contact with contamination. The probability of that is a staggering thought.
Chemicals, ranging from mercury to cadmium to arsenicare, are often found in fish. Which ones and their levels depends on the area caught. Mercury poisoning has been found in Japan, Canada, and the United States, as well as other countries. Various chemicals have been found in fish that have had access to waters on or near industries. Even the color of the egg yolk is produced with dyes in feed the same way that farmed salmon is “pinked up.”
Cleanliness is not always followed. If a cutting board is used to cut up meat and then used to cut up vegetables, it can be the source of transmission of bacteria. Infrequent hand washing is another major contributor to disease, especially after using the bathroom.
It has been estimated that at least 10,000 Britons suffer from food poisonings each week with 100 people dying from it each year. More than 95% of the cases are meat or poultry-related. Salmonella, campylobacter, listeria, toxoplasmosis, chlamydiosis, and parasitic worms were the most frequent infestations found in cattle, poulty, sheep, and pigs. This was attributed to the practice of rendering down animal waste and carcasses for animal feed, which was then passed on to the consumer.
Often, just observing how the meat is handled is enough to make the staunchest meat-eater turn vegetarian! In the industrialized world, this is kept from the eyes of most consumers. A trip to a foreign land is a good education, in many respects, but often one does not have to go that far to obtain that type of education.