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Food and Public Health Safety

By Shiv Chopra

The latest recall of E. coli infected beef should be a concern not only for beef and beef products but also for other meats, cheeses, vegetables and water.

E. coli is a generic name for billions of such bacteria thriving in the alimentary canal of humans and animals. Their presence in food or water indicates fecal contamination. The consumption of any such food or water can cause deadly disease. It cannot become safe by cooking or irradiation. Irradiation of the end products, such as steaks, hamburger, etc., may kill microbes but it does not exclude their original source which is feces and urine. Irradiation of meat may also generate carcinogenic substances. All such food and water must be rejected.

Virtually every E. coli infection can be traced to the unsanitary conditions in which food-producing crops and animals are being cultivated, processed, transported, stored, and ultimately sold for human consumption.

Most food-producing animals these days are raised at mega farms, commonly called factory farms. From there, they are transported for thousands of miles to similarly large slaughterhouses without being fed or watered for as long as 48 hours. Covered in feces and urine, dehydrated, frozen and badly bruised, approximately fifty percent of them are reported to arrive there already dead. Moreover, the mechanized tools and procedures used to slaughter these animals convey their infection-loaded excreta into the meat and meat products for human consumption. Finally, the waste water from these mega farms, slaughterhouses, packing plants and other establishments gets drained into fields, rivers, lakes and wells. Reports indicate that every year approximately 36 million Americans and 11 million Canadians contract food-borne infections (of these, several thousand get hospitalized and die).

At the heart of this problem are the drug manufacturers who sell vast quantities of many different antibiotics to prevent minor infections in farm animals. Antibiotics used in this way destroy harmless microbes in the animals’ alimentary canals and enable the development of antibiotic resistant “super-bugs”, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, etc. As a result of these problems, the European Union (EU) no longer allows large-scale use of antibiotics. By contrast, it continues to prevail in the U.S.A. and Canada with government approval.

Another cause for concern is illegal approval of sex hormones by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada in beef production. Beef stimulating hormones are recognized to be “complete carcinogens”. In other words, they can initiate cancers and also promote existing cancers. In addition, sex hormones are known to cause endocrine disruption. As such, sex hormones can cause reproductive disorders, such as infertility, early puberty, drop in sperm count, etc. Like antibiotics, no such hormones are allowed in the EU to increase beef production.

Yet another concern for food safety should be Canada’s approval for feeding slaughterhouse waste to food-producing animals. This is known to transmit BSE in cattle and CJD in people. Once again, any such use of slaughterhouse waste is strictly forbidden in the EU. The only other industrialized country allowing agricultural applications of antibiotics, hormones and slaughterhouse waste is the U.S.A., whose record on food safety is no better than Canada’s.

At issue also are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) attached to various herbicides and pesticides to increase agricultural yields of milk, meat, vegetables, fruits as well as ethanol. Ethanol’s public safety is being questioned throughout the world, though not in Canada or the U.S.A.

These should be sobering thoughts for both Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. These government institutions cannot go on pretending that the Canadian food supply is the safest in the world when it is so frequently found to be unsafe. People have the right to know how their food is produced. The only sure way to know that is to conduct a public inquiry.

Shiv Chopra, B.V.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., Fellow World Health Organization, is author of “Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower.” He can be reach at or via his website at:

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Also in the FALL 2012 Issue of An Ounce

Published: November 25th, 2012