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To Prevent Foodborne Illnesses, Take a Look at Industrial Farms

If the CDC, FDA and USDA are serious about preventing foodborne illness, they should examine the large-scale poultry operations that maximize profit at the cost of healthy animals and people

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It’s encouraging that the CDC is connecting foodborne illnesses to specific foods, but its recent report does not address the underlying source of much of this sickness: filthy, crowded industrial poultry farms ["Veggies to Blame for Majority of Foodborne Illnesses"].  Poultry has been linked to the highest number of foodborne illness-related deaths, which comes as no surprise, given that most chickens and turkeys spend their lives crammed together in sheds, lying in their own waste — conditions that not only cause chronic suffering to the birds, but also incubate bacteria such as E. Coli, Listeria and Salmonella. Sick birds are dosed with antibiotics throughout their lives to keep them alive and growing unnaturally fast, but those drugs are losing their power against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Now the USDA is planning to increase poultry slaughter-line speeds so that an inspector would only have one-third of a second to inspect a carcass, making it even likelier that diseased birds and fecal matter will end up on consumers’ plates. But contact with poultry isn’t the only way to contract these dangerous diseases: As the CDC report indicates, poultry litter infects the vegetables it commonly fertilizes. If the CDC, FDA and USDA are serious about preventing foodborne illness, they should examine the large-scale poultry operations that maximize profit at the cost of healthy animals and people.

Suzanne McMillan
Director, Farm Animal Welfare Campaign, ASPCA