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WATCH WHAT YOU EAT: The Health Effects of America’s Corporate Controlled Food Industry

Posted by Marie Kim and April Avant on February 9, 2011

A note from Physicians for Social Responsibility

With the corporate takeover of our nation’s food system, eating a meal has never been so controversial. Few consumers realize the growing offenses to worker’s rights, environmental sustainability, and public health that factory farming inflicts on our world. Today ten large companies produce 90% of the nation’s poultry. Agribusiness giants like Tyson, Cargill, Smithfield, and Monsanto occupy every niche of farm life from poultry to soybeans, actively destroying independent farmers with lawsuits and debt. Cramped animal confines that foster E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella outbreaks cost billions in health care services to sick consumers and pollute the environment with large volumes of animal waste that can leak into our waterways. 

What came first the chicken or the egg?

Recent salmonella outbreaks from Alfalfa sprouts in Idaho to the nationwide egg recall late last summer are both examples of food being not properly treated and raised. Recent FDA investigations prove livestock are placed in dank and dirty pens, cohabitating with rodents, birds and maggots.  Over 500 million eggs that were distributed among 22 states were recalled for salmonella. Between lost wages and medical care it 152 billion dollars.

Everybody Poops…more like everything poops.

 California identifies agriculture as a major source of pollution. Why? American agriculture corporations own and operate these super farms –that can hold 100s of thousands of chickens, pigs or cows. Dealing with that many animals the waste has to go somewhere.  That is where the “lagoon “comes in farmers came up with the quaint name “lagoon”, a deep pit of well …fecal matter.  The improper disposal allows microbes, nitrates and untreatable bacteria to filter into our water supplies. This causes not only salmonella, E.coli poisoning but in large concentrations short- term memory loss, miscarriages and over 40 other diseases.  In 1995 the federal government was forced to address this issue when an incident in North Carolina caused the death of large amounts of fish, contaminated the drinking water and knocked the ecosystem out of balance.  This stemmed from a massive over flow of over 20 billion gallons of hog waste. 

“Workin’ Nine to Five…”

Unlike Dolly Parton and the gang there are no plots to over throw the boss in this story. Similar to the conditions that livestock are bred and raised in farm workers are place under similar cruel conditions. One instance last year involved two brothers, owners of Aloun Farms in Hawaii, who were convicted of human trafficking.  Investigations uncovered that workers were lured from Thailand to Hawaii with the promise of better wages, housing and overall quality of life.  Once the agreement was made the farm works became modern day indentured servants. When they arrived they are shown to nothing more than a glorified storage unit. They began their first day of work already owing $20,000 for travel and lodging expenses, to bring them to America. Overworked and underpaid, with no way out, some tried to run away only to be met with threats of arrest by the police. The road back to Thailand proved even more difficult. To return to their homeland the farmers would return with a 20,000 dollar debt over their head. This is only one example of farm workers being and mistreated.  In this case the brothers were fined and currently serving a five year prison term.

Leaving this country’s entire food supply in the hands of a few companies is clearly promoting bad food policy in the name of profit and it is time the market returns its focus to the consumer.

Food legislation is only one of many topics to be discussed at the Rx for Survival Student Conference this April 2011, hosted by Physicians for Social Responsibility. Come hear from experts in the field about the most pressing issues in food policy and how we as the consumer can shift the industry to supply products that will lead to better health.


Brian Modena said ..

Great article, and volumes can be written on this subject. I think also we can consider the moral treatment of animals, such as pigs, cows, chickens that kept in these conditions, many of which are kept in overcrowded, polluted factories. Most never see the light of day. d

April 3, 2011

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