As Tom Philpott reported recently on Grist, toxic chemicals have been turning up in Chinese pork and American chicken. The Asian pigs are being given clenbuterol, a growth enhancer that can kill humans when ingested. American poultry, meanwhile, are given arsenic, while American pigs are given ractopamine, a growth enhancer that, interestingly, is banned in China.
And that’s not counting all the unnecessary antibiotics routinely given to American livestock to keep them from falling ill — which in turn encourages the spread of antibiotic-resistant diseases such as MRSA. Philpott speculated on the possible future legal consequences of this literal feedback loop:
Now that the U.S. regulatory establishment has demonstrated that a) it knows routine antibiotic use is a public-health menace, and b) it has no intention of reining it in anytime soon, I wonder if it’s opening the federal government to lawsuits from people who get sick or lose loved ones to antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
Philpott suspects that the feds aren’t doing much about the sick state of the country’s livestock industry for one very simple reason: “Doing the right thing to protect public health would mean destroying the meat industry.”
Instead, he cheered on Louise Slaughter, the Congresswoman fighting a lonely battle to reform the livestock situation, who’s still trying to get a bill passed that would cut back on antibiotic abuse. Whatever Slaughter does, however, might be too little, too late, as Philpott also noted the impending factory-farmification of China, thanks to Chinese investment in the American livestock business.
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