The Amateur Food Detective

The Amateur Food Detective
Bluebird Acres Farm in Friendship, NY

Monday, April 9, 2012

What Came First, the Chicken or the Fluoroquinolone?

Interesting latest news. Even more interesting, you have to really search to find it. I was doing routine research on poultry and beef when I came across something of which I feel everyone should be aware.
Poultry farmers used to feed an antibiotic called fluoroquinolone to chickens and turkey. It was used to protect the animals from E. coli infections. In 2005 the FDA banned the use of fluoroquinolone for reasons I will clarify in a moment. A recent study at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University discovered evidence that this banned product still exists in some of the poultry we are ingesting, and it has caused quite a stir among researchers and their peers.
Here’s what you need to know about fluroquinolone:
1)   It’s used to treat bacterial infections in humans (in familiar drugs such as Cipro, Proquin, Penetrex, and Levaquin).
2)   In humans it’s used to treat a variety of stomach ailments, including foodborne disease.
3)   It either kills bacteria or prevents their growth and is used both in hospitals and for the general public with a prescription.
4)   They are generally not used for children because it’s been shown to create bone development problems in young animals.
5)   Side effects include but are not limited to: seizures, tendon rupture or swelling of connective tissue, intestine infection, nerve damage, heart rhythm changes, sensitivity to sunlight, and skin rashes.
The FDA banned this drug because scientific evidence concluded that when fluoroquinolone-laced food is introduced into human bodies, it can cause fluoroquinolone-resistant Campylobacter infections.
“The FDA's rough estimate, using 1999 data, is that use of fluoroquinolones in chickens resulted in over 11,000 people that year contracting a strain of the campylobacter illness that was resistant to fluoroquinolones, contributing to unnecessarily severe disease.” –
In other words, it created antibiotic resistance in some people. Not a good thing if you’re battling salmonella poisoning. At first, the FDA recommended farmers stop using fluoroquinolone for their poultry, but it soon became evident that many poultry farmers did not feel the research was strong enough for them to comply. Eventually, the FDA determined a ban would be the only way to prevent farmers from using fluoroquinolone.
But now it seems a ban is not enough.
Let me give you a little history on the John Hopkins study. First of all, it was conducted because scientists wanted to see what types of drugs are being used for poultry. Secondly, it was performed on chicken and turkey from both the U.S. and China, and they examined feather meal for the study. As an aside, they also found these drugs in the birds as well: antihistamine diphenhydramine, acetaminophen, caffeine, and the antidepressant fluoxetine. Apparently we are eating sleepy, depressed chickens that have bad allergies. Here’s some reason for this find: “Poultry growing scientists have recommended using Benadryl, Tylenol and Prozac to reduce anxiety in chickens, because stressed chickens grow slower and have tougher meat. Chickens are fed coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them awake so they can spend more time eating. Arsenic is fed to poultry to fight infections and turn the meat a more appetizing shade of pink.”
Please note that the National Chicken Council wants to remind us that “the study looked at feathers, not meat…there is no immediate health concern,” and that the USDA tests meat for chemical and antimicrobial residues.
Of course, they neglect to “remind” us that this feather meal is added to the food chickens, fish, cattle in pigs eat. It’s also used as fertilizer on farms. So these drugs are getting into all our food supply. Perhaps not in large doses, and I have found no research that can prove it’s doing any harm used in this manner. But I put it out there for you to decide for yourself.
So here’s what you need to know. First off, there might be traces of the drug fluoroquinolone in the poultry your family is consuming. It’s been banned by the FDA because researchers have determined it has caused antibiotic resistance in humans. This drug also has many serious side effects including skin rashes and tendon rupture. On the flip side, the FSIS (USDA) tests meat for contaminants. See this site to know what companies have violated the chemical residue policies:
Here’s what I’m thinking: some poultry farmers are continuing to use fluoroquinolone. Could be that they’re only using it on the hens that lay eggs. Or, it could be, as New York Times Op-Ed writer Nicholas D. Kristof mentions in his article, that farmers don’t realize what’s in the feed they’re giving their animals.
Here is the refuting statement given by in its entirety:
TUCKER, GA – The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association released the following statement on the recent Feather Meal report published by the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. “The U.S. commercial poultry industry does not use fluoroquinolones and has not since they were banned in 2005 by the FDA for poultry. In fact, ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, and ofloxacin found in this study – albeit at extremely low levels – have never been used in the U.S. commercial poultry industry. The fact that they are evident in this study calls into question the source of the feather meal that was tested, potential cross-contamination with other products, and ultimately the scientific objectivity of the research since it implies continued use of fluoroquinolones that were never used by the poultry industry in the first place,” remarked Dr. John Glisson, DVM, Director of Research Programs for U.S. Poultry & Egg

You decide for yourself. Meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye out for what happens next.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What's the Beef with Beef?

Ah, yes. Dr. Oz found another food for us to panic over. I don't mean to belittle his efforts. It's important that someone open up our eyes to what we're consuming. The problem is that now we're playing a game of telephone, and no one knows what's true and what's false. So here I am, once more, to bring you the information I've painstakingly researched, and again it is up to you to decide what you feel is safe for your family's dinner table.

First off, in case you don't know the terminology, LFTB stands for Lean Finely Textured Beef. It's the mainstay of the controversy. What is it, exactly? Some people have nicknamed it "pink slime," but from what I understand it's the trimmings of beef that include some fat and portions of beef that have been trimmed from the animal so that the beef cut has a desired shape and consistency. These trimmings are then heated to 100 degrees and the fat liquefied and drained from the beef. This leaner beef may be added to other ground beef and processed into hamburger.

So what's the problem?

The issue is the way the lean beef is treated. A "puff" of ammonium hydroxide gas is used to destroy bacteria on the trimmings after it's separated from the fat. The type that's used for the beef is not the same as your everyday household cleaner. It's been declared safe by the FDA since 1974. The argument for this being safe is that ammonia is a natural substance that is produced in animal and plant products as well as in humans. Yet, it sounds like an additive, and that alone may raise hairs. Supposedly, the gas evaporates from the meat, so it can't be considered an additive because it's not actually added to the beef. The argument for using it is that it prohibits bacteria from forming, therefore making the meat safer for consumption.

What does this mean for the consumer?

Well, if you watch video on "pink slime," you'll see the trimmings being processed and to be honest, mushy meat looks gross. Otherwise there doesn't seem to be much of a problem. Oh, except for the cattle. You see, now that fast food and grocery chains have pulled back from using LFTB thanks to consumer backlash, more cattle have had to be slaughtered to fill the demand. Apparently trimmings filled in enough meat to save some bovine lives. Alternately, some of this beef will be higher in fat because the trimmings helped make the meat leaner.

I do not consume beef. For me it's a health issue because of my cholesterol, and to be honest, I was never a hamburger fan. Veggie burgers are yummier in my opinion. I also don't cook burgers or steak for my family. half our meals are vegetarian by choice. But I still was disgusted when the news broke about pink slime and its supposed negative effects, which I still haven't yet found evidence of. If anyone finds proof that LFTB is a terrible thing, other than the look of it, please comment and let me know so I can adjust my opinion if need be. But at this time I don't see what the beef is.