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5 Dangerous Substances Big Ag Pumps Into Your Meat
It is no secret that in the war against meat pathogens in commercial U.S. meat production, the pathogens are winning. The logical result of the tons of antibiotics Big Meat gives livestock (not because they are sick, but to fatten them up) is clear: antibiotics that no longer work against antibiotic-resistant diseases like staph (MRSA), enterococci (VRE) and C.difficile. Antibiotic-resistant infections, once limited to hospitals and nursing homes, can now be acquired in the community, Florida public beaches and on the highway behind a poultry truck.
The EU has not accepted U.S. poultry since 1997. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Big Meat has found some novel ways to retard the growth of salmonella, E.coli and listeria on commercially grown meat, but it does not necessarily want people to know about them and these substances are conspicuously absent from labels.
1. Chlorine Baths
If you want to know the most problematic ingredients in our food supply, just look at the items the European Union boycotts, starting with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hormone beef and chicken dipped in chlorine baths. U.S. Big Food lobbyists are pushing hard to circumvent the European bans, says MintPress News, especially "bleached chicken." They claim the “many unwarranted non-tariff trade barriers … severely limit or prohibit the export of certain U.S. agricultural products to the EU.”
That's the idea. In fact, the EU has not accepted U.S. poultry since 1997.
Why do U.S. poultry processors use chlorine? It "kills bacteria, controls slime and algae, increases product shelf life [and] eliminates costly hand-cleaning labor and materials" in addition to disinfecting "wash down" and "chilling" water. "Pinners" in the slaughter facility who remove the birds' feathers by hand wash their hands with chlorinated water to "reduce odors and bacterial count" after which the birds are sprayed to "wash all foreign material from the carcass." Meat is similarly disinfected with chlorine, says one industrial paper, especially because conveyer belts are "ideal breeding grounds for bacteria."
In a 2014 directive, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) admits the many uses of chlorine in poultry and meat production, none of which are required to be on the label under the "accepted conditions of use" (which limit the parts per million of chlorine allowed). And it gets worse. The FSIS directive also reveals that chlorine gas is used on beef "primals," giblets and "salvage parts" and for "reprocessing contaminated poultry carcasses." Bon appétit.
It has only been two years since the nation's stomach churned when it saw photos of "pink slime" oozing out of processing tubes and bound for U.S. dinner tables and the National School Lunch Program. Looking like human intestines, "lean, finely textured beef" (LFTB) was made from unwanted beef "trim" and treated with puffs of ammonia gas to retard the growth of E. coli. While the company making most of the nation's LFTB, Beef Products Inc. (BPI) shuttered three plants and laid off hundreds of employees two years ago, it is since fighting back and has brought a lawsuit against ABC news.
The suit alleges "that ABC launched a disinformation campaign that had an adverse effect on BPI's reputation, and used the term 'pink slime' to describe the company's LFTB even after it had been provided factual information about the product," reports Beef magazine. And, indeed, a quick look at FSIS's 2014 directive, whose purpose is to provide an "up-to-date list of substances that may be used in the production of meat, poultry and egg products," shows that "lean, finely textured beef" is alive and well. "Lean finely textured beef," says the FSIS, is treated with anhydrous ammonia, "chilled to 28 degrees Fahrenheit and mechanically 'stressed.'" Ground beef is also treated with anhydrous ammonia "followed with carbon dioxide treatment." Neither treatment appears on the meat label.
In November, Ag giant Cargill announced it is bringing back pink slime, with two changes—instead of ammonia, E.coli will be killed with citric acid and the meat will be identified as "Finely Textured Beef" on its label.
3. Carbon Monoxide
Eight years ago there was an uproar about Big Meat using gases like carbon monoxide to color meat an unnatural red even as it was aging on the shelf. The brown color meat assumes after a few hours is as harmless as a sliced apple turning brown, says the American Meat Institute. But like mercury in tuna or ractopamine in beef, pork and turkey, Big Food didn't blink or make any changes because it knew the contretemps would blow over—and it did. Thank you for your short memory, John Q. Public. "Modified atmosphere packaging" of meat, using assorted gases, is still a mainstay of meat production and "safe and suitable" in meat production, according to the FSIS report.
According to the FSIS directive, carbon monoxide is used as a "part of Cargill’s modified atmosphere packaging system introduced directly into the bulk or master container used for bulk transportation of fresh meat products. Meat products are subsequently repackaged in packages not containing a carbon monoxide modified atmosphere prior to retail sale." Carbon monoxide is also used to "maintain wholesomeness" in packaging Cargill's "fresh cuts of case-ready muscle meat and ground meat," says the FSIS directive.
Why is Cargill's name actually written into government directives? Maybe because it's one of the world's biggest Ag players according to Rain Forest Action. With annual revenues bigger than the GDP of 70 percent of the world’s countries, Cargill is the world's largest privately held corporation, says Rain Forest Action. It operates in more than 66 countries and is one of a "very small handful of agribusiness giants that collectively are shaping the increasingly globalized food system to their advantage."
4. Other "Safe and Suitable" Ingredients You Don't Know You're Eating
Unless you're a chemist, you may not recognize some of the other ingredients in the 2014 FSIS directive, but that doesn't mean you want to ingest them. Take "cetylpyridinium with propylene glycol for bacterial control." While cetylpyridinium is a germ-killing compound found in mouthwashes, toothpastes and nasal sprays, in meat production it is combined with propylene glycol to "treat the surface of raw poultry carcasses or parts (skin-on or skinless)." Yum.
How about, "aqueous solution of sodium octanoate, potassium octanoate or octanoic acid and either glycerin and/or propylene glycol and/or a Polysorbate surface active agent," also to kill germs?
And, does anyone want to eat "hen, cock, mature turkey, mature duck, mature goose and mature guinea" into whose raw meat and tissue has been injected protease produced from the mold Aspergillus for tenderness?
Another unrecognizable chemical is sodium tripolyphosphate, used as an "anti-coagulant for use in recovered livestock blood which is subsequently used in food products," says FSIS. According to Food & Water Watch, seafood like scallops, shrimp, hake, sole or imitation crab meat may be soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate to make it appear firmer, smoother and glossier. Sodium tripolyphosphate, "a suspected neurotoxin, as well as a registered pesticide and known air contaminant in the state of California," says Food & Water Watch, also can make seafood weigh more. To avoid sodium tripolyphosphate, buy fish labeled as “dry,” says Food & Water Watch, and avoid seafood marked as “wet.” We have not found advice on how to avoid the chemical in meat.
An under-reported way in which Big Food is seeking to kill meat pathogens, especially antibiotic-resistant pathogens, is with bacteriophages. Phages are viruses that infect and kill bacteria, essentially turning the bacteria cell into a phage production factory until the bacteria cell bursts, releasing hundreds of copies of new phages, which go on to infect and kill more bacteria. Phages, discovered in 1919, were used to treat bacterial infections but fell out of favor when antibiotics became widely available in the 1940s. Antibiotics had the advantage of attacking more than one bacterium at the same time and were not usually recognized by a patient’s immune system, so they could be used over and over in the same person to fight bacterial infection without producing any immune response.
In 2008, OmniLytics, Inc. announced FSIS approval (issuance of a no-objection letter) for a bacteriophage treatment for poultry it developed in conjunction with Elanco, the animal division of Eli Lilly, to reduce salmonella. Other, similar products soon surfaced for meat production. At least nine bacteriophage uses are listed in the FSIS 2014 directive, mostly sprayed on the hides or feathers of live animals to reduce bacterial count before slaughter. While phages are certainly "greener" than antibiotics, there are two reasons many food activists do not laud the development. Bacteriophages accommodate rather than reform the high-volume, low-ethics factory farming and do not clean up drug excesses. The other reason is phages could become yet another tool of factory farming. Cattle and other livestock operators could use phages to make animals gain weight without risking antibiotic resistance, observed a recent documentary.
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By Tom Duszynski
The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.
In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.
How does your body fight off COVID-19?<p>Once a person is exposed the coronavirus, the body starts producing <a href="https://www.mblintl.com/products/what-are-antibodies-mbli/" target="_blank">proteins called antibodies to fight the infection</a>. As these <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/27/serological-tests-reveal-immune-coronavirus/" target="_blank">antibodies start to successfully contain the virus</a> and keep it from replicating in the body, symptoms usually begin to lessen and you start to feel better. Eventually, if all goes well, your immune system will completely destroy all of the virus in your system. A person who was infected with and survived a virus with no long-term health effects or disabilities has "recovered."</p><p>On average, a person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 will feel ill for about seven days from the onset of symptoms. Even after symptoms disappear, there still may be small amounts of the virus in a patient's system, and they should stay <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html" target="_blank">isolated for an additional three days</a> to ensure they have truly <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">recovered and are no longer infectious</a>.</p>
What about immunity?<p>In general, once you have recovered from a viral infection, your body will keep cells called lymphocytes in your system. These cells "remember" viruses they've previously seen and can react quickly to fight them off again. If you are exposed to a virus you have already had, your antibodies will likely stop the virus before it starts causing symptoms. <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.5114%2Fceji.2018.77390" target="_blank">You become immune</a>. This is the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27158/" target="_blank">principle behind many vaccines</a>.</p><p>Unfortunately, immunity isn't perfect. For many viruses, like mumps, immunity can wane over time, leaving you <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160421145747.htm" target="_blank">susceptible to the virus in the future</a>. This is why you need to get revaccinated – those "booster shots" – occasionally: to prompt your immune system to make more antibodies and memory cells.</p><p>Since this coronavirus is so new, scientists still don't know whether people who recover from COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/faq.html" target="_blank">immune to future infections of the virus</a>. Doctors are finding antibodies in ill and recovered patients, and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html" target="_blank">that indicates the development of immunity</a>. But the question remains how long that immunity will last. Other coronaviruses like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.25685" target="_blank">SARS and MERS produce an immune response</a> that will protect a person at least for a short time. I would suspect the same is true of SARS-CoV-2, but the research simply hasn't been done yet to say so definitively.</p>
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Once a person has recovered, what can they do?<p>Knowing whether or not people are immune to COVID-19 after they recover is going to determine what individuals, communities and society at large can do going forward. If scientists can show that recovered patients are immune to the coronavirus, then a person who has recovered could in theory <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/3/30/21186822/immunity-to-covid-19-test-coronavirus-rt-pcr-antibody" target="_blank">help support the health care system</a> by caring for those who are infected.</p><p>Once communities pass the peak of the epidemic, the number of new infections will decline, while the number of <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/china-says-passed-peak-coronavirus-epidemic-covid-19-1491863" target="_blank">recovered people will increase</a>. As these trends continue, the risk of transmission will fall. Once the risk of transmission has fallen enough, community-level isolation and social distancing orders will begin to relax and businesses will start to reopen. Based on what other countries have gone through, it will be <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00154-w" target="_blank">months until the risk of transmission is low</a> in the U.S.</p><p>But before any of this can happen, the U.S. and the world need to make it through the peak of this pandemic. Social distancing works to slow the spread of infectious diseases and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/what-you-can-do.html" target="_blank">is working for COVID-19</a>. Many people will <a href="https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/2019-novel-coronavirus/" target="_blank">need medical help to recover</a>, and social distancing will slow this virus down and give people the best chance to do so.</p>
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
Bread has been a source of basic nutrition for centuries, the holy trinity being wheat, maize and rice. It has also been the reason for a lot of innovation in science and technology, from millstones to microbiological investigations into a family of single-cell fungi called Saccharomyces.
Chemical leavening<p>If you like a little heft in your loaf, you will need a leavening agent.</p><p>For those short on time, you can use baking soda. That's a chemical compound of sodium bicarbonate mixed with potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar.</p><p>Soda breads have their traditions in parts of eastern and central Europe, and in Ireland and Scotland, with Melrose loaves and "farls."</p><p>They can taste a bit bland, though, and are often considered only as an emergency solution on Sundays. No disrespect intended: They taste just fine fresh from the oven.</p><p>Whether it's chemical or more "natural," leavening relies largely on the production of carbon dioxide.</p><p>When you mix an acid, such as vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or apple cider, with an alkaline compound like baking soda, you get CO2. That CO2 creates bubbles, which in turn capture steam in the oven and allow a bread to rise.</p><p><span></span>But it's better with yeast. Tastes better, too. It just takes more time. </p>
What is yeast?<p>There are yeasts all around us — on grains, in the air, in biofuels. It even lives inside us, but that's not always a good thing.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1090575/pdf/1471-2334-5-22.pdf" target="_blank">Candida yeast</a> can cause infections of the skin, feet, mouth, penis or vagina if it builds up too much in the body.</p><p>One of the most common yeasts, however, is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>. That's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/an-early-beer-archaeologists-tap-ground-at-worlds-oldest-brewery/a-45480731" target="_blank">"brewer's"</a> or "baker's" yeast.</p><p>You can get fresh baker's yeast, often in 42-gram (1.48-ounce) cubes, or as dried yeast (quick action or active, which requires rehydration) in a sachet of 7 grams.</p><p>There's little difference: One is compressed and the other is dehydrated and granulated. But they do the same thing, essentially. </p><p>Some commercial yeast producers add molasses and other nutrients. But natural yeast has plenty of useful nutrients in it anyway, including B group vitamins, so who knows whether it's good or necessary to add them. </p>
How does yeast work?<p>When you mix flour, yeast and water, you set off a veritable chain reaction. Enzymes in the wheat convert starch into sugar. And the yeast creates enzymes of its own to convert those sugars into a form it can absorb.</p><p>The yeast "feeds" on the sugars to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeast burps and farts, releasing gases into the mix, and that creates bubbles to trap CO2. </p><p>It's a vital fermentation process that breaks down the gluten in the flour and helps make your bread more digestible.</p><p>The yeast cells split and reproduce, generating lactic and carbonic acid, raising the temperature and ultimately adding flavor to the mix.</p><p>The longer you leave the yeast to do its thing, the better for your bread. Time is more important than the amount of yeast. </p><p>In fact, that's an enduring question — how much yeast? I'll use 20 grams fresh yeast for 500 grams of flour. Others say that's enough yeast for 1 kilo. If you are converting a dry-yeast recipe to fresh yeast, some bakers advise tripling the weight. So, if a sachet of dried yeast is 7 grams, your fresh yeast is 21 grams.</p><p><span></span>But that also depends on the flours you are using, temperatures in the bowl and the room, and a host of other things. You'll just have to experiment and see. No number of books (and I've read a stack on bread) will help as much as trial and error.</p>
Wild yeast: Sourdough<p>So, good bread needs time. If you have a lot of time, why not move it up a notch and grow wild yeast — a sourdough starter — in your own home?</p><p>A sourdough starter is not to be mistaken (as it often is) for the leaven, or "mother," "sponge," or <em>levain</em>. That's more a second stage, a descendant of the starter. You take a scoop from your starter and add it to another flour and water mixture when you prepare the dough for a new loaf. </p><p>The sourdough process utilizes yeasts naturally present in flour and … yet more time. A longer fermentation process allows a richer lactic acid bacteria <em>lactobacilli</em> or LAB to evolve, and that can be healthy for your gut microbiome.</p><p>It's simple enough to start a sourdough starter. All you need is flour, warm water and time.</p><p>Some suggest equal measures of whole-grain flour and water at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), some say room temperature — just don't let the water exceed 40 C or the yeasts will die. Some suggest two parts flour to three parts water. But it's up to you whether you want a drier or wetter starter. You will know only through experimentation. </p><p>Some say you should filter tap water to remove chemicals like fluoride and avoid using water that's boiled and then cooled. Others say that really doesn't matter.</p><p>The main thing is, keep it clean and give it time. Days, weeks, months and years.</p>
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