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Ractopamine is banned from food production in at least 160 countries around the world, including countries across Europe, Russia, mainland China and Republic of China (Taiwan), due to its suspected health effects. Yet, the majority of North Americans are unaware that the drug is used in meat production.

Since 1998, more than 1,700 people have reportedly been "poisoned" from eating pigs fed the drug. If imported meat is found to contain traces of the drug, it is turned away, while fines and imprisonment result for its use in banned countries. Fear that the ractopamine ban might be lifted brought thousands of demonstrators onto the streets in Taiwan last year, demanding that the ban remain in place.

Ractopamine is a beta agonist drug that increases protein synthesis, thereby making the animal more muscular. This reduces the fat content of the meat and increases the profit per animal. The drug, which is also used in asthma medication, was initially recruited for use in livestock when researchers discovered that it made mice more muscular. Other adverse reactions to beta-agonist drugs include increased heart rate, insomnia, headaches, and tremors.

Beta-agonist drugs, as a class, have been used in US cattle production since 2003. The drug is administered in the days leading up to slaughter, and as much as 20 percent of it can remain in the meat you buy. While other drugs require a clearance period of around two weeks to help ensure the compounds are flushed from the meat prior to slaughter (and therefore reduce residues leftover for human consumption), there is no clearance period for ractopamine.

Six different additives are used in medicated feed for cattle in Canada.

Three of those — lasalocid sodium, salinomycin sodium and monensin sodium — are antimicrobial drugs that fall into the category of drugs that have no therapeutic use for humans, says the Beef Cattle Research Council.

Chlortetracycline hydrochloride is antimicrobial closely related to tetracyclines, which are antibiotics used in human medicine, but for which there are alternatives according to the Research Council.

Melengestrol acetate is a steroidal growth promoter and ractopamine hydrochloride is a non-antimicrobial drug given to promote lean weight gain.

According to Health Canada, natural hormones progesterone, testosterone and estradiol and synthetic
hormones zeranol and trenbolone are all approved for use as growth promoters in beef cattle. Growth hormones generally promote muscle growth and improve feed conversion, the amount of weight an animal gains per unit of feed consumed.

Medical Associations on both sides of the Canadian/US border are against antimicrobial feed additives and have repeatedly called for a ban on antibiotic use without a prescription.

Why You Should Stick with Meat from your Local Farmer!
Spoiler Alter: After reading this you may never look at your meat aisle in the same way again. This stuff is nasty reading but goes a long way to explain why factory farming of animals may be linked to a looming public health crisis.

Animals raised for meat eat more than 30 million pounds of antibiotics a year. Most supermarket meat today comes from operations that routinely feed animals low doses of antibiotics. This constant contact with drugs helps bacteria learn how to outsmart the meds, creating dangerous strains of hard-to-kill superbugs.

About 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. go to nonorganic farm animals to help speed livestock growth and counteract filthy, stressful housing situations that debilitate the animals' immune systems.

MRSA kills more people than AIDS, and it's in your meat. Forcing animals to eat drugs is creating a silent crisis. A 2011 study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases took the gross-out factor to a whole new level. Researchers found that half of the U.S. supermarket meat sampled contained staph infection bacteria, including the hard-to-kill and potentially lethal MRSA. Turkey products were most likely to harbor staph bacteria, followed by pork and chicken products.

Prozac may have been part of your chicken's diet. Earlier in 2012, Johns Hopkins University study studied the feathers of imported chickens to figure out what the birds ingested before slaughter. They found traces of antidepressants, painkillers, banned antibiotics, and allergy medication. According to scientists, Prozac is sometimes used to offset anxiety common in factory farm conditions. (Stress can slow birds' growth, hurting profits.) Scientists also uncovered caffeine in about 50 percent of samples taken. Why? Caffeine keeps chickens awake so they can grow faster.

You could be eating animal worming medication. The U.S. Department of Agriculture discovered traces of harmful veterinary drugs and heavy metals in U.S. beef, including:

1. Ivermectin, an animal wormer that can cause neurological damage in humans.
2. Flunixin, a veterinary drug that can cause kidney damage, stomach, and colon ulcers, as well as blood in the stool of humans.
3. Penicillin, a drug that can cause life-threatening reactions in people who are allergic to it.
4. Arsenic, a known carcinogen that is allowed in some nonorganic animal feeding operations. (It is commonly fed to chickens, and chicken litter, or feces, is sometimes fed to feedlot cattle—and the majority of supermarket and fast-food beef in this country comes from feedlot operations.)
5. Copper, an essential element we need for our survival but that's harmful when too much accumulates in our bodies.

Certain beef is more likely to harbor deadly E. coli germs. It's natural for cows to eat grass, but not grains. Still, most cows today are raised in feedlots, where they chomp down lots of grain to speed growth. This changes the natural chemistry in a cow's gut, making it easier for potentially deadly E. coli O157:H7 strain to survive.

Supermarket chicken could be fueling urinary tract infections. Investigating disease-causing bacteria on grocery store meat and comparing it to urine samples of women diagnosed with UTIs, researchers found that in 71 percent of cases, the E. coli bacteria collected from women with UTIs matched the strain detected on supermarket chicken. "People are eating a lot more chicken because it's often perceived as healthier," says Amy Manges, PhD, associate professor in the department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health at McGill University in Montreal. "But what people don't realize is that chicken is pretty heavily contaminated with bacteria in general, and those bacteria tend to be drug resistant."

All the antibiotics that are pumped into cattle, and other modern-day farming practices, lead to tough, chewy steaks, says Sarah Klein, a senior attorney in the food-safety program at Center for Science in the Public Interest. So, increasingly, slaughterhouses have adopted the process of mechanically tenderizing steaks and other high-quality cuts of beef. Doing so involves driving blades and needles into steak—which in turn, drive any bacteria living on the surface of a steak deep into the flesh. When you get an undercooked steak, for instance, if you like to order yours rare or medium, all that bacteria inside the meat is still alive, whereas before, it would have been seared off when the outside was cooked, she says. More than half of the 82 outbreaks linked to steak in the past ten years can be linked to E. coli, a bacterium that's usually only found on the exterior of whole cuts of meat. Plants aren't required to label mechanically tenderized meat, so you don't know which cuts to handle with care and which are ok to order a little pink.

Antibiotics are used on conventional farms to make animals grow faster. And emerging research suggests antibiotics could be making us fatter, too, disrupting the natural balance of beneficial gut bacteria. "For many years now, farmers have known that antibiotics are great at producing heavier cows for market," explains Jan Blustein, MD, PhD, professor of population health and medicine at NYU School of Medicine. "While we need more research to confirm our findings, this carefully conducted study suggests that antibiotics influence weight gain in humans, especially children, too."

Spoiler alert -- this isn't going to be appetizing. Consumer Reports released a study testing 257 samples of ground turkey from supermarkets and found that virtually every one was contaminated with either – get ready for it --- fecal bacteria, staph or salmonella. What’s worse the fecal bacteria were resistant to one or more antibiotics important to human medicine. This just after the US government admitted a significant majority of supermarket meat is contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria.

If you missed the announcement its little wonder. It was buried in the FDA’s 2011 Retail Meat Report which reveals results from their periodic testing of common supermarket meat products for contamination and bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Thanks to the good works at Environmental Working Group, they crunched the numbers and came up with the results and they were disturbing enough to consider vegetarian options. Three of the superbugs listed can cause tens of thousands of illnesses and hundreds of deaths. While these reports are US centric, Canada doesn’t lag far behind. Last September we had the biggest beef recall in Canadian history.

Perhaps most disturbing fact is that the superbugs seem to be on the increase and the evidence points to the overuse of antibiotics in livestock operations.

In an attempt to give consumers some clarity around this issue, The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) developed a useful guide for each category of meat purchased at the retail level. The study called Risky Meat ranks risky meats and poultry. Highest Rise is chicken and ground beef. High Rise goes to beef cuts, steak and turkey. Click for full report.

Today, there is ample evidence to suggest that our commercial grade meat, poultry and fish should be labelled just as much as the chemical cuisine we get in a box, tin or jar. The how behind industrialized meat processing is not only off-putting, its methodology is downright dangerous to human wellbeing.

Aside from adding all that pink slime to hamburgers, eighty percent of all antibiotics purchased are used on factory farm animals like poultry, pigs, cattle and fish because it promotes fast growth and offsets some of the vile conditions these animals are forced to live in.

While that makes for big profits for both the food and pharmaceutical industries, the consequences for those who consume industrially processed meat is serious - particularly our children. Outbreaks of illnesses from antibiotic-resistant bacteria have grown in number and severity because antibiotics are losing their effectiveness including a critical class of antibiotics like Cefzil and Keflex, which are commonly used to treat pneumonia, strep throat and skin and urinary tract infections. Then there's the emergence of new pathogens like E. coli O157:H7, the bacteria responsible for killing four children back in 1993's during the Jack in the Box outbreak in the United States. Canada’s largest-ever beef recall, at a whopping 4,000 tonnes, spread across the country and the U.S. states, after the XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta produced beef tainted with E. coli bacteria. It came just four years after an outbreak of listeria bacteria killed 23 Canadians who ate tainted meat produced by Maple Leaf Foods.

The U.S. court system has taken steps to ban the use of antibiotics and the Canadian Medical Association and the Department of Pathobiology at University of Guelph has called on the federal government to stop the use of antibiotics in the agriculture sector except by prescription from a veterinarian, citing concerns that antibiotic misuse is “rampant” and fears the practice could give rise to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The meat industry claims banning the use of such drugs, would greatly reduce the efficiency, drive up the cost of meat, and some in the industry believe that the scientific evidence linking low-dose use of antibiotics to increased drug-resistant illness in people is too inconclusive to justify banning their use. Really?

In February 2012 an analysis by the Environmental Working Group determined that government tests of raw supermarket meat detected antibiotic-resistant bacteria in: 81% of ground turkey; 69% of pork chops; 55% of ground beef; and, 39% of chicken parts. A joint project of the federal Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture, found that supermarket meat samples collected in 2011 harboured significant amounts of the superbug versions of salmonella and Campylobacter, which together cause 3.6 million cases of food poisoning a year. Hardly inconclusive.

Unfortunately the ingredient list doesn’t stop there. Ractopamine is a growth enhancer. The growth additive, called a beta-agonist, has enjoyed stealth use in the US and Canadian food supply for a decade despite being widely banned overseas. Ractopamine has been linked to cardiovascular effects, behavioral changes, and nervousness in humans and pigs.

Ractopamine is a beta agonist drug that increases protein synthesis, making the animal more muscular. This reduces the fat content of the meat and increases the profit per animal.
Beta-agonist drugs, as a class, have been used in US cattle production since 2003. Ractopamine is administered in the days leading up to slaughter, and as much as 20 percent of it can remain in the meat you buy.
Animal research has linked ractopamine to reductions in reproductive function; birth defects; increase of mastitis in dairy herds; and increased disability and death. FDA records show ‘death’ is the most-often reported side effect.
The Center for Food Safety, together with the Animal Legal Defense Fund recently sued the FDA, maintaining it is illegally withholding records pertaining to ractopamine’s safety.
Then add the BT toxins.Transgenic BT crops were commercialized in 1996. Originally they were engineered to reduce the use of pesticides, but in the end, that reduction didn’t really happened. In fact, chemical usage actually increased. In the lab, the seed’s original DNA are altered to make the BT toxin systemic within the crop, so its deadly charms shows up in every cell, from root to fruit, whether the resulting biofood is soy, corn, cotton, potato, papaya, tomato, sugar beet or squash. This genetic manipulation is so toxic, crops like BT corn and BT soy are registered as pesticides, not food. In this systemic state, the toxin cannot diminish when exposed to sunlight nor can it be washed off. So feed animals and consequently humans swallow it lock, stock and barrel.

What’s at issue with BT toxins is horizontal gene transfer. Corporations like Monsanto claim the BT toxin protein in food could never pose a threat because horizontal gene transfer from plant to human was thought impossible. That assumption was based old science. Gene transfer can shape the evolution trajectory of life on the planet. Vertical gene transfer is typified by the genes that are passed from parent to child. But horizontal or lateral gene transfer doesn’t require sex to reproduce and that type of transfer can mess up our evolutionary picture pretty quickly. Horizontal gene transfer is one of the most serious hazards of transgenic technology. It can affect all types of bacteria, including those that live inside the human digestive system. The bacteria that play a vital role in keeping us healthy, could become contaminated by the transgenic BT toxins. BT toxins have now showed up in non-pregnant women and moms-to-be as well as in the babies they were carrying despite not living anywhere near farmers’ fields. The Canadian scientists who carried out the study believe the toxins were transferred from the meat they were eating.

Damning reports have surfaced worldwide linking systemic BT crops with respiratory issues, intestinal and skin problems, cancer, and the quickened growth of tumors. The medical community is witnessing a rapid rise in the deterioration of human digestive health not only in adults, but in kids. Food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease has skyrocketed by as much as 40% and intestinal permeability, more commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome, is also on the rise. This serious digestive disorder compromises the stomach lining (epithelium) making it so porous that damaging bacteria and endotoxins can leak through -- much like the targeted insects that ingest BT toxins. As the incursion becomes chronic, our immune systems weaken ultimately triggering chronic inflammation leaving the door wide open for any one of the autoimmune diseases that are currently on the rise: irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and Alzheimer’s. And now Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is being considered for that list.

Today, there is no hard evidence that links meat protein fed BT grains and digestive health. Long term feeding studies are too expensive and distressingly there is too much vested interest to explore the matter impartially. However, the average person eats 200 pounds of beef, pork, poultry and fish per capita per year. Two out of every three farm animals in the world are factory farmed meaning the vast majority of the 50 billion animals that are processed to meet this demand have one thing in common. Just before slaughter, they are ‘fattened up’ using a transgenic cuisine made from BT grains peppered with a healthy dose of glyphosate, antibiotics and an array of other questionable chemicals including a meat additive that’s been banned almost everywhere except USA and Canada.

Do these dangerous chemicals interfere with our digestive system? Do they affect the development of our babies-to-be? It’s anyone’s guess. But there is an interesting parallelism in Nature that just may be the canary in the coal mine. When researchers studied the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder, they discovered that the honeybees left in the hive were mineral deficient. Somehow two fundamental digestive components they have in common with humans have vanished: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Something the honeybees have eaten have left the majority of the adult and unborn honeybee population susceptible to a chronic disease that has now wiped out over half of the population of honeybees.

Genetically engineered food is chemically treated and heavily processed. Seven out of 10 foods on grocery shelves contain questionable transgenic ingredients, yet they require no label identification. Industrially processed cows, pigs and chickens are usually fed genetically modified crops but animal products like milk, eggs and meat do not require warning labels. Genetically engineered salmon is becoming a reality yet it will require no identifying label. Supporters of agrichemical biotechnology claim that the World Health Organization (WHO) position is that GMO foods are safe. But that's not accurate. The IAASTD Global Report, co-sponsored by the WHO and six other world organizations, says GMOs have NOT been proven safe. Over 100 science or health based world-wide organizations support mandatory labeling.

HELP CHANGE THE FUTURE OF FOOD
Industrial agriculture contributes to many pressing problems: toxic drift and runoff of pesticide residues and animal wastes; green house gases emitted by farms and food transport; and, the link to the decline of public health. We need a food system that values people over profit and we need people like you to help it happen. Change the future of food. Join the concerned citizens worldwide that are demanding that their countries take action. Sign up to let our legislators know that you want foods that contain transgenic ingredients labelled.

More than 60 nations, including France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, India, Chile and South Africa require GE labeling on their processed shelf food. Unfortunately, meat proteins and dairy are still exempt from the practice. In Canada and the United States, no such luck. New transgenic crops like alfalfa, lawn grass, ethanol-ready corn, 2,4 D-resistant crops as well as genetically engineered trees and animals are being fast-tracked for approval by the US government, with absolutely no independent pre-market safety-testing required, no public discussion and no labelling requirements.

The line between genetically engineered fodder and natural food is once again being blurred thanks to the Canadian government. Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency rammed through approval of genetically modified salmon without public consultation or assessment of the potential effects of GM fish escaping into the wild. And, once the transgenic fish are in our grocery stores, no labelling will be required. Why? Advocates of GMO fodder know consumers won’t buy it. Polls show that the vast majority of Canadians (88%) want mandatory labeling of all genetically modified foods and 45% say they won’t eat GMO salmon.

Health Canada, just like its counterpart the FDA in the U.S., caved to pressure from a powerful international biotech lobby, instead of listening to the concerns of independent science making the announcement on May 19, that after "thorough and rigorous scientific reviews” of AquaAdvantage's genetically modified salmon, the transgenic fish is “as safe and nutritious for humans and livestock as conventional salmon.”

Aside from the insult of lumping humans and livestock into one category, the sound bite rings hallow when examined closely. Wild salmon are high in essential Omega-3 fatty acids, while avoiding environmental toxins. Not so with GE fish. Eric Hoffman, Friends of the Earth, U.S., noted that the insertion of ocean-pout DNA into Chinook salmon causes the production of growth hormone year-around. To date, no long-term safety tests were conducted to determine if there would be potential negative consequences on public health or on heritage salmon should this genetic aberration escape into the wild.

Further, both the FDA and Health Canada ignored warnings from Canadian government research scientists (Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Office of Aquatic Biotechnology, Draft Risk Review, 2013). These scientists found significant problems with the GE fish, including greater susceptibility to disease (which may require the use of potent antibiotics), and widely inconsistent growth rates. It was also noted that the genetically engineered fish may produce a hormone that can increase cancer risk in humans if they consume the transgenic fish.

According to AquaBounty, the Massachusetts-based biotech firm behind AquaAdvantage, the genetically modified fish will be in stores in about a year joining the GMO sweet corn which is already in the fresh produce aisle and the GMO potato which is slated for commercial release in the Fall of 2016. None of these transgenic foods require labelling.

But resistance is growing. The US Food and Drug Administration promised to bring in labelling guidelines after its approval of GM fish triggered a wave of public reaction in the fall. Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans are fighting approval of the commercial production of GM fish eggs in court, both in Canada and the US, arguing Health Canada and CFIA failed to meet the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

So far, about 60 US-based grocers and retailers, including Costco, Whole Foods and Red Lobster, have pledged not to sell the fish in their stores. But it’s up to Canadian consumers to build on the momentum. Email the Minister of Health today and contact your Member of Parliament to ask for mandatory labelling of all genetically engineered foods using your postal code at www.parl.gc.ca.

Next time you chow down on that juicy burger grilled on your trusty barby or when ordering your fave from a local drive-thru, better make sure that burger is well-done -- really well done.

For decades, Health Canada advised consumers to cook ground beef to 71 °C (159.8 °F). That was suppose to be the tipping point for harmful bacteria, like E coli, to be thermally destroyed making the ground beef safe to eat. But food scientists at the University of Alberta recently discovered the recommended temperature may not be high enough.

For years, scientific papers about micro-organisms in meat have repeatedly stated, that sometimes not all the micro-organisms are destroyed during the cooking process. There can be survivors. That’s significant because while not all E. coli are harmful, nasty strains such as E. coli O157 can be lethal to humans.

“We’ve been hammering consumers for years to cook chicken properly, to handle it properly, and to do the same with ground beef. But still we seem to have these outbreaks of E. coli [attributed to hamburgers],” Lynn McMullen, a food microbiologist in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science stated.

So back in 2008, her Department decided to create a long term food study to find out what was going on. Long term studies are seldom carried out in the food industry because they tend to be very costly. In fact, it’s one of the reasons other kingpins in industrial agriculture use to avoid independent long-term studies. Behemoths like Monsanto, Dow and the other GMO seed giants, whose profits are in the billions annually, claim these studies are too costly to carry out. To get around any sticky transparency, they and our regulators, hid behind a food safety policy that was created in the early 90s at the beginning of the GMO onslaught. The policy maintains that the safety of a new food, particularly one that has been genetically modified (GM), can be assessed by comparing it to a similar traditional food that has proven safe in normal use over time. Substantial equivalence is the underlying principle in GM food safety assessment for a number of national and international agencies, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The Food and Nutritional Science program at University of Alberta (UA), however, were blessed. The University houses cattle in support of other programs, so the Department had access to a virtual jackpot of a diverse feed-cattle population.

What the researchers discovered was a shocker. The E. coli bacterium tested were displaying inconsistent behaviour. One organism survived a full 70 minutes at 60 degrees Celsius. That temperature should have snuffed out the questionable bacteria in seconds. It didn't.

Not quite believing what they were seeing, the team headed by Professors Lynn McMullen and Michael Gänzle repeated the experiments, twice. Both test scenarios produced identical results. Then they compared their results of survival values to other labs and discovered that other cultures behaved differently too.

So what's the big deal? Escherichia coli, (E coli) is a bacterium found in the gut of both humans and some feed animals, like cattle. Bovines share 80 percent of their genes with humans so the bacteria found in beef can cross the animal/human gene barrier potentially causing some serious damage to the human body. The concern is very real. While some E coli strains are harmless, others can cause kidney failure and death.

The results, according to McMullen, demonstrate that the standard temperature may not be sufficient to eliminate all the strains of E. coli and that may explain the persistence of outbreaks related to ground beef. In other words, cooking ground beef to 71 °C does not always eliminate all strains of E coli.

“These organisms aren’t supposed to survive, but every once in a while they do,” said McMullen. “So we decided to find out why. We looked at the genomes to see what was different.”

Working with post-doctoral fellow Ryan Mercer, they discovered a suite of 16 genes found only in the highly heat-resistant strains of E. coli under wet conditions (such as in fresh meat). This genomic grouping is called the locus of heat resistance, or LHR. Hunting through the genome databases for LHR, they discovered it exists in about two per cent of all E. coli in the databases in both the harmless and pathogenic strains.

The team is working with Health Canada with support from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, to determine how often pathogenic E. coli will survive in cooked meat. Meanwhile, if you are a beef eater, make sure it's well done.