Consumers face health risks from factory farming

15 August 1997

"Consumers face health risks from factory farming"

By Boyd Champness

HUMANS are slowly being “poisoned” by the animals we eat because of unsafe intensive farming methods, according to a new report released by Compassion In World Farming (CIWF).

CIWF – the UKs leading farm-animal welfare charity – says it has drawn together research from around the world to present a “horrifying” picture of widespread contamination of food animals.

Author of the CIWF report, Dr Tim OBrien, said: “CIWF believes that farm animals should no longer be forced to lie or sit in their own excrement, that they should have full access to natural daylight and the outdoors, and that there should be significant reductions in overcrowding in UK farms.”

Mr OBrien said CIWF “demands urgent action” in these areas, to reduce animal suffering and to minimise the existing serious risk to human health.

He said intensive chicken farms are so overcrowded that the floor is scarcely visible, and that the birds get blistered feet from standing in their own excrement and blistered lungs from breathing in an atmosphere heavy with ammonia fumes, dust and bacteria.

“Would we be surprised if disease was rampant? Of course not. So why would be surprised that much of the meat we obtain from these animals harbours disease-causing organisms,” he said.

The report outlines some disturbing facts:

  • The UK Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, in 1995/96, released surveys showing that food poisoning bacteria Salmonella was evident in one out of three raw, chilled UK chickens, Campylobacter in 48% of fresh chickens, and Verocytotoxin-producing E coli in 25% of raw pork sausages;

  • Food poisoning in England and Wales has increased six-fold over the past 15 years, and is costing the taxpayer and industry between £1bn and £3bn per annum;

  • Massive amounts of antibiotics are being routinely administered to farm animals, in a desperate attempt to control the bug-explosion on factory farms. This results in unnatural growth rates, with millions of farm animals suffering from painful leg disorders and heart problems;

  • Every year between 1990 and 1996, antimicrobial substances were found in UK pigmeat in quantities above maximum levels (MRL). It is an offence to supply a pig for slaughter which contains residue levels above MRL, but there have been no prosecutions;

  • At the end of last year, scientists reported “alarmingly high” levels of mutation in Salmonella and E coli 0157, which could confer resistance to antibiotics. Evidence is emerging that bacteria resistant to antibiotics used in farming may also be resistant to antibiotics vital for human medicine.

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