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The Safety of Our Food

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We live in an era where major concerns of our health are the air we breathe, drinking water, and the safety of our food. As individuals who are concerned with health issues it is important to be educated and be proactive towards the basics that influence our health. Some of these are food borne illnesses, genetically modified foods, and toxins that are found not only in the food but also in our water. Food production and how our food choices affect the food chain, our health, and ultimately the world in which we live are important aspects to examine.

Since ancient times, farmers have provided their animals with harmonious environments, healthy nutrition, and protection from predators and natural elements. That is not always the practice today especially with the factory farming. They have changed ethical farming practices for economic profit. The unethical practices are at the expense of animal welfare and the increased potential to place the general public toward adverse health consequences.

Food borne illnesses are defined as infectious or toxic diseases in nature caused by agents that enter the body through ingestion of food. Everyone is at risk for contracting a food borne illness but every incident is preventable. From the production at farm level to the final presentation and consumption of the food everyone is involved in this prevention. The key is better knowledge and understanding on storing and preparing the foods. Governments all over the world are intensifying their efforts to improve food safety.

There has been evidence that the manner of which we treat our animals can result in harmful public health implications. Many of human diseases such as measles, influenza, and smallpox have been shown to originate from farm animals being domesticated. Even SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), that effected thousands of people were linked to live animal markets. Mad cow disease that causes dementia in humans came from factory farms and their unethical practices of feeding cows waste, blood, and even chicken manure. The most common of all food borne illness is the bacterial pathogen Salmonella, which is the leading cause of food related death. Primarily Salmonella comes from eggs and this is from intensely confining hens to cages instead of allowing them to roam cage free. (Dunavan 2007)

Industrial farms create air pollution. Manure from industrial farms emits gases that can be deadly to humans. Because of the conditions of how they store the animals so closely and do not allow them to graze the meat and dairy becomes a poorer quality. Further since cows were meant to eat grass and not be raised on grains their stomachs are altered and they become more susceptible to bacterial infections.

Perhaps the most obvious impact of a factory farm is its horrible odor which is extremely noticeable for miles in every direction. The quantity of waste from a large industrial farm can equal the amount of sewage generated by a major city. The large farms also emit bacterial endotoxins, molds, organic dusts, and gases such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, many of which are known to cause irritation in the airways or respiratory hazards. This is a problem both for people living near these industrial farms and for the people who are employed in them. Many studies have documented respiratory problems, including chronic bronchitis and non-allergic asthma, in approximately 25 percent of industrial farm workers and employees have actually died from asphyxiation after entering underground pits used to store manure. (Sandy 2009)

Industrial farms also have a history of causing water contamination. It has been estimated that these farms generate 1.4 billion tons of animal waste nationally each year, which is 130 times the national volume of human waste. That is the equivalent of 5 tons of animal waste per every U.S. citizen. This waste contains pathogen bacteria, including salmonella and E.Coli; heavy metals; nitrogen and phosphorous; and millions of pounds of antibiotics. The routine feeding of antibiotics to animals in factory farms is helping fuel the growing public health problem of antibiotic resistance. Over 70 percent of all antibiotics in the United States are fed to healthy farm animals. (Sandy 2009)

Industrial farm waste pits often leak, and in some states they actually allow a certain amount to fissure. There are a number of factors can cause a waste pit to leak, including liner damage from consistent freezing and then unthawing, weathering of outer walls, pressure from roots of plants, and tunneling by rodents or worms. Leaks from farm pits can cause manure and contaminants to pollute the groundwater, which desecrates local drinking water supplies. Nitrogen and phosphorous contamination also degrades our river and waterway systems. (Sandy 2009)

In 1995, 25 million gallons of raw animal waste spilled from an 8 acre industrial pit in North Carolina, killing 10 million fish and closing more than 350,000 acres of coastal wetland to shell fishing. The EPA has placed blame on the industrial farming practices for 70 percent of the pollution in the country's rivers and streams, and epidemiology studies have linked several pathogen outbreaks to contamination from livestock waste. (Sandy 2009)

Industrial farms are over-crowded and stressful to animals, which makes it easy for disease to spread. Animals are raised in close quarters with hardly any access to fresh air or sunlight. They are spending a lot of time lying in their own feces. The majority of farm animals in the United States are reared in battery cages, overcrowded chicken sheds, sow crates, zero-grazing dairy systems, cattle feedlots or veal crates. The animals are forced to grow super-fast, pushed to their physical limits in the quest for more cheap meat, milk or eggs. At the end of their brief lives, millions of animals are transported over great distances in terrible conditions, only to be slaughtered at the journey's end.

Farm animals are sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and suffering. Yet industrialized agriculture treats them as nothing more than meat,



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