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Contaminated Food






Vegetarianism & Veganism

Factory Farming

Contaminated Food

Animal Agriculture & the Environment

Animal-based Diets & Human Health

Opposite Trends in Agribusiness

Humane Animal Husbandry: A Myth

Humane Slaughter:
A Contradiction in Terms

Selected Bibliography



Who Controls the Food Supply





Disease: it's the free side dish


A number of factors seriously compromise the meat prepared and sold in our markets today. Although regulatory protocols are in place in most industrialized countries worldwide in the form of animal humane welfare acts, animal anti-cruelty statutes, animal transportation laws, animal slaughter legislation, food standards, labor safety controls, as well as whistleblower-protection laws, they are all directly undermined and contravened at the slaughterhouse. And the slaughterhouse is where disease gets into your food.


In the slaughterhouse, where increasing the output is the only priority, animals are moved through killing-lines at such speeds that the workers can't stun them properly. Half-dead cattle, goats, pigs, and sheep struggle hysterically, spouting blood, with their entrails falling out of them, mixing with the blood and manure underfoot. Yes, there are technicians trained to identify skin discolorations or tumors and to catch and separate out other potential dangers. Yes, there are staff veterinarians to certify that the meat is safe to eat. But you can no longer rely on these "safeguards" because the carcasses fly by too quickly, hanging from the conveyer belts, falling off the meat hooks into the blood pits below where rodents, huge roundworms, and cockroaches are commonplace. And you can no longer rely on these "safeguards" because the deregulation over the last 20 years has allowed even faster slaughter lines. And you can no longer rely on these "safeguards" because the industry has become self-policing instead of being government monitored. And you can no longer rely on these "safeguards" because staffers within the industry have graduated to government appointments, supposedly providing oversight, but instead enabling the deterioration.


Harmful toxins, chemicals, bacteria, viruses, and parasites easily enter the food chain under intensive farming conditions where animals live in unnaturally cramped quarters, often caged one above the other. In these squalid circumstances, pigs, poultry, and veal calves live for a few short weeks covered with feces and urine. The sick and dying are trampled underfoot, where they are frequently left to decay. The manure itself is reprocessed and used in their feed. It's a perfect habitat for worms and fleas and lice to spread, for bacteria and viruses to take hold, for cancers to develop.


Foodborne illness is caused by consuming, or simply by coming in contact with, foods contaminated with disease-causing microbes or pathogens. The danger is in animal waste and contaminated raw foods of animal origin, including raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, and raw shellfish. Mad Cow disease and Avian Flu are two examples of life-threatening disease passed through our food supply. Campylobacter and Salmonella bacteria are potential threats in most poultry. Giardiasis, Listeriosis, Toxoplasmosis, and Yersiniosis are diseases caused by organisms commonly found in beef and pork, as are E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. Vibrio infection is often transmitted by shellfish. Cryptosporidiosis and the caliciviral infections are frequently spread by sick food-handlers.


Common symptoms of foodborne illness are diarrhea and vomiting, typically lasting one to seven days. Other symptoms might include abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, joint and back pain, and fatigue. Children are particularly susceptible because their immune systems are not as resistant as adults. In the case of E. coli O157:H7, complications like HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome) can cause immense suffering and a gruesome death.




All symptoms of digestive distress should be taken very seriously, especially if you eat animal products or if you have been in contact with raw animal meat. Information about food-borne pathogens is readily available in your local library as well as on the Internet and, of course, from your own medical practitioner. Two extraordinary books describe problems in the food industry, with witness and staff documentation, and are an indictment of the collapse of food safety over the past 20 years:


Eisnitz, Gail A. Slaughterhouse. New York: Prometheus Books, 1997

Lyman, Howard F. Mad Cowboy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998