I remember the old days growing up in the 50's and 60's. We took for granted that the FDA and its sister organization the USDA were out there protecting Americans from food based pathogens and diseases. They had a simple task, inspect food manufacturing facilities for sanitary conditions. There were very few food additives, so there wasn't much to do on that front, but they were ever vigilant to protect against bacterial contamination. Or so the old black and white newsreel footage stated that we all saw in health class back in grade school. Well, I still am not certain why they showed us horrifying pictures of meat processing plants, maybe it was so teachers could get a little nap.
But today, it is pretty scary what goes on in processing plants. Back in August of 2012 the USDA announced their plans to let their chicken inspectors go from 140 birds a minute to 175 birds a minute. This means that each USDA inspector had to look inside each cavity of each dead chicken carcass to visually inspect for fecal material, cancerous occlusions, other foreign material and whatever else might get left in there. Then inspect the outside of each bird carcass for deformities, cancerous growths, fecal material and other foreign substances. And they had to do that in under 1/3 of a second. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service spokesman Dirk Fillpot states that the reason for this change will "ensure and even enhance the safety of our poultry supply by focusing our inspectors efforts on activities more directly tied to improving food safety." All in a third of a second.
Consumer Reports recently stated that in tests of supermarket chickens, 83% tested positive for Salmonella contamination. The Center for Disease Control reports that from 1998 to 2008 that 19% of all food poisoning deaths could be traced back to contaminated chicken. In fact infections stemming from food related transmission of the pathogenic bacteria Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Listeria have increased from 2007 to 2011. Combined, these three bacteria contributed to about 48 million illnesses a year. These are CDC figures.
The problems seem to be getting worse, not better. A reduction in inspection of chickens, as well as similar reductions in other meat processing plants is not the answer to improving the condition of the foods that we as Americans consume. All of these bacterial infections are becoming epidemic and the real problem is that now many of them are from strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria. As Americans continue to feed their desire for cheap meat, big agribusiness conglomerates are more than willing to provide the kind of crap that they are well suited at providing. CAFO's (concentrated animal feeding operations) provide the means for making money. Thousands of animals, and in the case of poultry, hundreds of thousands, are kept confined in tight areas eating cheap feed, and living in horrific unsanitary conditions. CAFO operators feed kept animals huge amounts of antibiotics in an attempt to stave off infections caused by living in basically, in and on their own waste. The result, ever larger and larger quantities of antibiotics as the bacteria develop resistance. And that resistance translates into ever greater problems for humans. And greater numbers of people dying.
As long as YOU and all your friends continue to fund the big businesses that manufacture this stuff, they will continue to do so. If YOU and all your friends begin to demand better quality meat, free range, organic, then big business will have no choice but to change their manufacturing methods.
Good luck, you are what you eat, and die by what you consume.