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Sunday, June 30, 2013

New Study Links Wheat To Weight Gain and Diabetes

New Study Links Wheat To Weight Gain and Diabetes

New Study Links Wheat To Weight Gain and Type 1 Diabetes

A new animal study published in the journal PLoS sheds light on a possible mechanism behind the weight- and diabetes-promoting properties of wheat observed in humans, and perhaps offers some vindication for Dr. William Davis' New York Times best-selling but heavily criticized book 'Wheat Belly,' wherein the argument is made that wheat is a major contributing factor to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes presently afflicting wealthier, gluten-grain consuming nations.

In the new study, researchers from The Bartholin Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark, explored the role that gliadin, a difficult to digest class of proteins within wheat, plays in promoting weight gain and insulin secretion in both animal and cell models, finding that gliadin-treated mice gained 20% more weight (by day 100) than gliadin-free controls, and that gliadin fragments induce insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells, the cells responsible for producing insulin, and which in type 1 diabetes are destroyed or rendered dysfunctional.

Gliadin does not break down easily in the body because they are extremely hydrophobic ("water fearing"), and contain disulfide bonds (the same kind found in human hair and vulcanized rubber);[1] as a result, undigested wheat gliadin fragments can enter through the intestinal wall, gaining systemic access to the human body. This can result in inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, among many other possible negative health effects (note: we have documented over 200 adverse health effects associated with wheat exposure).

Gliadin fragments have even been found in mother's milk, indicating they are capable of traveling freely throughout the body (not unlike another wheat toxin known as WGA), and can therefore affect the health of newborns. Indeed, the association between gluten consumption and conditions such as juvenile-onset type 1 diabetes is well established in the biomedical literature, with 11 studies on the topic indexed on GreenMedInfo.com alone: see Wheat Type 1 Diabetes Connection.

The researchers referenced previous experiments demonstrating a gluten-free diet lowers diabetes incidence in non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice from 64% for chow fed controls, to 15% for the gluten-free group,[2] with a further 6%  reduction by keeping the mother on a gluten-free diet during pregnancy. [3]
While the new study did not find gliadin treatment "caused" type 1 diabetes, they did conclude that based on their observations of gliadin's weight-promoting and insulin secretion inducing effects "[G]liadin fragments may contribute to the beta-cell hyperactivity observed prior to the development of type 1 diabetes." They also described two implications of their findings: 1) gluten peptides may cause higher insulin secretion at basal glucose levels. 2) gluten peptides may lower the insulin response to glucose over time. In other words, gluten may contribute to the development and exacerbation of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, by causing both and/or either beta cell overstimulation and burn out (type 1) and insulin resistance (type 2).

The researchers describe a case of type 1 diabetes put into remission through a gluten-free diet:
Observations implicate gluten's influences on the development of diabetes in humans. A particular compelling T1D case describes a patient, who remained healthy, devoid of insulin therapy for 36 months, after being prescribed a gluten-free diet at the time of T1D diagnosis. His stable fasting blood glucose levels at 5.8 mmol/l, indicate that a gluten-free diet may be a method to protect beta-cell function in patients. However, the protective effect remains to be tested in clinical trials of T1D patients. This gluten-free diet approach may enhance beta-cell rest, by circumventing gliadin-induced increase in beta-cell activity, which we have described in this study.
The researchers also conclude that a "...gluten-free diet may also be beneficial in preserving beta-cell function in type 2 diabetes (T2D)."

This study, like many that have come before it, indicate that reducing and especially eliminating wheat and related gluten-containing grains from the diet is the best strategy for preventing the development of diabetes and weight gain associated with elevated insulin levels. Learn more about the dangers of wheat by reading the Dark Side of Wheat or exploring our Wheat and Gluten education page.

Also, consider that even after severe damage is done to the beta cells in the pancreas, resulting in type 1 diabetes, there are plenty of natural compounds that have been studied to stimulate beta cell regeneration, opening the door to natural alternatives to conventional treatment. Our recent article on the topic addresses this research in greater detail:  10 Natural Substances That Could Help Cure Type 1 Diabetes

[1] Ji, Sayer The Dark Side of Wheat: New Perspectives on Celiac Disease and Wheat Intolerance, 2008
[2] D P Funda, A Kaas, T Bock, H Tlaskalová-Hogenová, K Buschard. Gluten-free diet prevents diabetes in NOD mice. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 1999 Sep-Oct;15(5):323-7. PMID: 10585617
[3] David P Funda, Anne Kaas, Helena Tlaskalová-Hogenová, Karsten Buschard. Gluten-free but also gluten-enriched (gluten+) diet prevent diabetes in NOD mice; the gluten enigma in type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2008 Jan-Feb;24(1):59-63. PMID: 17607660

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Experiment Is on Us: Science of Animal Testing Thrown into Doubt

The Experiment Is on Us: Science of Animal Testing Thrown into Doubt

The Experiment Is on Us: Science of Animal Testing Thrown into Doubt

Originally published on Independent Science News and republished with permission.
New scientific research has cast grave doubt on the safety testing of hundreds of thousands of consumer products, food additives and industrial chemicals.
Everyday products, from soft drinks and baby foods, to paints, gardening products, cosmetics and shampoos, contain numerous synthetic chemicals as preservatives, dyes, active ingredients, or as contaminants. Official assurances of the safety of these chemicals are based largely on animal experiments that use rabbits, mice, rats and dogs. But new results from a consortium of researchers and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggest such assurances may be worthless (Seok et al. 2013).
The results of these experiments challenge the longstanding scientific presumption holding that animal experiments are of direct relevance to humans. For that reason they potentially invalidate the entire body of safety information that has been built up to distinguish safe chemicals from unsafe ones. The new results arise from basic medical research, which itself rests heavily on the idea that treatments can be developed in animals and transferred to humans.
The research originated when investigators noted that in their medical specialism of inflammatory disease (which includes diabetes, asthma and arthritis), drugs developed using mice have to date had a 100% failure rate in almost 150 clinical trials on humans.
According to Kristie Sullivan, Director of Regulatory Testing Issues at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), this is not unusual "about 90% of all pharmaceuticals tested for safety in animals fail to reach the market, or are quickly pulled from the market". Wanting to understand why this might be so, the consortium decided to test the effects of various treatments that lead to inflammation, and systematically compare results between mice and humans. This postulated correlation across different animal species is sometimes known as the concordance assumption.
In a first set of experiments the researchers looked at acute inflammation in mice brought on by various stimuli. These stimuli were bacterial toxins (endotoxaemia), trauma, and burns. To measure responses the authors quantified positive or negative changes in gene activity for thousands of individual genes. The researchers found that changes in activity of a particular mouse gene after treatment typically failed to predict changes in activity in the closest related human gene. This was not the expected result. If humans and mice are meaningfully similar (i.e. concordant) then gene activity changes in mice should have closely resembled those in humans after a similar challenge. But they did not.
In further experiments, the researchers identified another difference. While humans responded with similar patterns of gene changes to each of the three different challenges (trauma, burns, and endotoxaemia), mice did not. The three treatments in mice each resulted in a distinct set of gene activity changes. This confirmed the initial results in the sense that mice and humans responded differently. It also implied that the differences in gene response between mice and humans are attributable not so much to a lot of detailed 'noise' but to fundamental differences in the physiology of mice and humans in dealing with these challenges.
Next, the researchers examined the activity of specific biological signaling pathways after similar treatments. These too were highly divergent between mice and humans. Surprised by the consistently poor correlations between the two species, the authors then tested other human/mouse models of inflammatory diseases. Again, the similarity between mice and humans was low.
In summary, repeated experiments confirmed that, when it comes to inflammation, mice and humans have little in common, a finding important enough in itself given the prevalence of inflammation-related diseases in humans. These include allergies, celiac disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune diseases.
Perhaps these results should not be a surprise. Concordance has been questioned by numerous researchers, some of whom have noted that mice are separated from humans by 120 million years of evolutionary change (Stoloff 1992; Greek and Swingle Greek, 2003; Mestas and Hughes, 2004; Knight, 2007). And, unlike humans, mice also suffer from different diseases, lack a gall bladder, have no menstrual cycle, have multiple births, differ in immune systems, lifespan and size, to name only a few dissimilarities.
Thus the Seok study is not the first to conclude that mice are poor models for human disease, but it is notable for being by far the most comprehensive. Combined with results of previous experiments, its conclusions suggest researchers should expect that mouse, and probably other animal testing, is of little use in advancing the treatment of human illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
In other words, the public is probably being badly served by much of the money spent on medical research. According to PCRM's Kristie Sullivan, "the National Institutes of Health is giving researchers billions of dollars every year for research on animals". While missing out on potential cures, the public is also likely being exposed to dangerous or ineffective pharmaceuticals. Animal testing nearly prevented the approval of valuable drugs such as penicillin and subsequent antibiotics, but it did not prevent the thalidomide disaster of the 50s and 60s (Greek and Swingle Greek, 2003).
This finding of non-concordance need not mean the end of medical research. It could even herald a more promising and scientific era. Sullivan believes that medical researchers "simply take for granted that animal models are useful" even though other, and possibly better, techniques for studying human disease are available. These include greater emphasis on human clinical observation and making better use of cell cultures for research.
But wasteful and unproductive medical research is arguably a sideshow besides the misplaced confidence in the safety testing of environmental and household chemicals. While medical failures affect the unwell, chemical toxins have potential repercussions for everyone.
If animals are not useful predictors of important disease responses in humans it is unlikely they are useful as test subjects for toxicological safety. In other words, lack of concordance means that the synthetic chemicals that are found in industrial products, incorporated into food, and otherwise spread throughout the environment, are essentially untested. The regulatory process through which they passed was never a scientifically validated and evidence-based system, but now the evidence shows it to have been functioning as a system of random elimination. "We are not protecting humans" says Kristie Sullivan, noting that "even a National Academy study agrees that many toxicological tests are not human-relevant."
There are potential alternative toxicological tests, but despite multi-billion dollar grants, and even a human on a chip, the science is still incomplete. Michael Hansen, Senior Scientist at the Consumers Union, has been contributing to recent discussions over replacing animals for the purposes of regulatory toxicology. He acknowledges that "we should be moving towards in-vitro cell-based models" for chemical risk assessments. But how this can be done is not yet clear. Hansen points out that not only is "there a technical problem of how to incorporate them into an overall risk assessment", but also that "in-vitro alternatives have yet to be validated". Nevertheless, he still believes specific uses for animal research remain: "for carcinogenicity, for example, mice are appropriate models".
An interesting question, when an estimated 100 million mice are sacrificed each year for medical research and in toxicology, is why it took so long to test this fundamental assumption. The answer is that it has been tested before, though not nearly as rigorously as it could have been. And the results have, in the view of many, not supported the idea that animals reliably model human physiology (Knight, 2007; Dressman, 2007).
A different kind of answer is that animal research is now big business. One genetically engineered mouse can cost $100,000 while a mouse treadmill can set taxpayers back $9,600 (Greek and Swingle Greek, 2003). For medical researchers, animal research offers a steady income and a successful career pathway regardless of whether, as in the field of inflammation, experiments deliver practical benefits to patients. These are just some of the entrenched interests maintaining the animal testing system. Other prominent beneficiaries include the food and chemical industries which profit from the public perception of safety derived from animal testing.
Going back to the time of ancient Greece, we have used animals to teach us about the human body; however, it was not until 1937 — after 100 people died from taking Elixir Sulfanilamide — that Congress mandated drug safety testing on animals. Since then, literally billions of mice and other mammals have been sacrificed in a Faustian bargain—that their suffering was preventing human experimentation. Seemingly, that calculation was misguided from the start.
The failure of animal experiments to predict human responses and the inability of alternatives to replace them leaves few options. Individuals can to a limited extent protect themselves through avoiding packaged, processed and non-organic food and buying goods made from traditional materials. But ultimately, chemical exposure and chemical pollution are a collective responsibility.
Dressman HK et al, 2007. Gene expression signatures that predict radiation exposure in mice and humans. PLoS Med 4:4.
Greek CR, Swingle Greek, J (2003). Specious science: Why Experiments on Animals Harm Humans.  The Continuum International Publishing Group, Ltd, London.
Knight A (2007) Systematic reviews of animal experiments demonstrate poor human clinical and toxicological utility. ATLA 35: 641-659.
Mestas, J and Hughes, CCW, (2004) Of mice and not men: differences between mouse and human immunology, The Journal of Immunology, 172: 5.
Seok, J Shaw Warren, H et al, (2013) Genomic responses in mouse models poorly mimic human inflammatory diseases. PNAS February 11, 2013 online edition.
Stoloff L (1992) An analysis of the 1987 list of IARC-identified human carcinogens and the correlated animal studies. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 15: 10–13
Postscript (added May 8th)
Readers may find it useful to get an idea of the prior debate over concordance. Below are some of the scientific papers that have debated concordance. We covered this paper (Seok et al. 2013) because we believe it exemplifies a pattern and not so much because it is new.
P Pound, S Ebrahim, P Sandercock et al. (2004) Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans? BMJ.  328: 514–517.
A good place to gain access to this literature is at http://www.afma-curedisease.org/

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fast Food Burgers Contain Parasites & Ammonia According to New Study

Abstract Source:
Ann Diagn Pathol. 2008 Dec ;12(6):406-9. Epub 2008 Jul 26. PMID: 18995204
Abstract Author(s):
Brigid Prayson, James T McMahon, Richard A Prayson
Article Affiliation:
Laurel School, Shaker Heights, Ohio, USA.
Americans consume about 5 billion hamburgers a year. It is presumed that most hamburgers are composed primarily of meat. The purpose of this study is to assess the content of 8 fast food hamburger brands using histologic methods. Eight different brands of hamburgers were evaluated for water content by weight and microscopically for recognizable tissue types. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) staining was used to evaluate for brain tissue. Water content by weight ranged from 37.7% to 62.4% (mean, 49%). Meat content in the hamburgers ranged from 2.1% to 14.8% (median, 12.1%). The cost per gram of hamburger ranged from $0.02 to $0.16 (median, $0.03) and did not correlate with meat content. Electron microscopy showed relatively preserved skeletal muscle. A variety of tissue types besides skeletal muscle were observed including connective tissue (n = 8), blood vessels (n = 8), peripheral nerve (n = 8), adipose tissue (n = 7), plant material (n = 4), cartilage (n = 3), and bone (n = 2). In 2 hamburgers, intracellular parasites (Sarcocystis) were identified. The GFAP immunostaining was not observed in any of the hamburgers. Lipid content on oil-red-O staining was graded as 1+ (moderate) in 6 burgers and 2+ (marked) in 2 burgers. Fast food hamburgers are comprised of little meat (median, 12.1%). Approximately half of their weight is made up of water. Unexpected tissue types found in some hamburgers included bone, cartilage, and plant material; no brain tissue was present. Sarcocystis parasites were discovered in 2 hamburgers.
Study Type : Environmental

Clinical Pathologists Dissect the American Hamburger, and Find What?? Not only did they find nerve, muscle, gristle AND PARASITES as primary constituents of the “meat,” they found muscle tissue ranged from only 2.1 – 14.8%.  Additionally, the “beef” was found to contain a significant amount of ammonia — a byproduct of a sterilizing the meat, creating what is known as “pink slime.”

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Top 5 Reasons to Steer Clear of GMOs


Heather Bauer, RD, CDN

Top 5 Reasons to Steer Clear of GMOs

We have all heard the term "GMO" fly around the food industry lately, but what does it actually mean? GMO stands for "genetically modified organisms." These are plants and animals that have been created by having their DNA modified in a lab. So why are we consuming these Frankenstein-like organisms? GMO's have been created for many reasons, including longer shelf life, resistance to weed killers and resistance to insects. Although this may not sound all bad, the changing of a product's DNA may cause changes to levels of nutrients that may be important for our health. Many new organizations, including the Non-GMO Project, are on a mission to preserve non-GMO products, and increase the awareness through food labeling. Want to be part of the non-GMO bandwagon? Here are my top five reasons to let go of GMOs.

1. You may not even know you're consuming it. Are you ready for this shocker? In the U.S., GMOs are in as much as 80 percent of conventional processed food. It can be hard to keep on top of what food ingredients are at risk of being a GMO, because they are constantly changing. Genetically-altered ingredients may also be hiding in fruits and vegetables. More markets are beginning to recognize this growing issue, one in particular being Whole Foods. Whole Foods has been supporting the Non-GMO project and even lists all of their safe products on their website.

2. It is healthier for the whole family. Shopping organic is a great step toward ensuring that your family eats the healthiest foods possible. The challenge is that although GMOs are not recommended for the National Organic Program, it also does not require GMO testing. For your best bet in making sure you are selecting the best, healthiest and safest products and ingredients for you and your family, it is best to choose products that are certified organic and Non-GMO Project verified.

3. There are plenty of other options. Although it may be hard to always know which fruits and vegetable products are non-GMO, by choosing other products that are labeled with the non-GMO seal, you can begin to change the way you eat. A great brand I am loving these days is Way Better Snacks. These delicious chips made from sprouted grains are not only Non-GMO verified, but are high in omega-3s and other vital nutrients. Another great brand that you may have heard of is Larabar. A favorite snack of mine, all Larabar products are non-GMO and organic. By choosing to purchase foods that have been properly labeled as non-GMO, we are helping to keep these products on our stores shelves.

4. Use your green thumb. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is a great way to avoid GMOs. Make sure to check the label on the seeds you choose, as well. If the package is not labeled, it is best to assume that the seed or plant has been genetically modified.

5. Shop the local green markets. Farmers' markets are a great way to get fresh produce from small local farms. Checking out these markets will give you a chance to talk directly with the farmers themselves, and find out exactly where the produce is coming from.
For more by Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, click here.
For more on personal health, click here.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ibuprofen Kills More Than Pain, So What Is The Alternative?

Ibuprofen Kills More Than Pain, So What Is The Alternative?


by Sayer Ji


Pain and unhealthy levels of inflammation are fast becoming default bodily states in the industrialized world. While in most cases we can adjust the underlying pro-inflammatory conditions by altering our diet, and reducing stress and environmental chemical exposures, these approaches take time, discipline and energy, and sometimes we just want the pain to stop now. In those, often compulsive moments, we find ourselves popping an over-the-counter pill to kill the pain.

The problem with this approach is that, if we do it often enough, we may kill ourselves along with the pain…

Take ibuprofen as an example. This petrochemical-derivative has been linked to significantly increased risk of heart attack and increased cardiac and all-cause mortality (when combined with aspirin), with over two dozen serious adverse health effects, including:
  1. Anemia[1]
  2. DNA Damage[2]
  3. Hearing Loss[3]
  4. Hypertension[4]
  5. Influenza Mortality[5]
  6. Miscarriage[6]

Ibuprofen is, in fact, not unique in elevating cardiovascular disease risk and/or mortality. The entire category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) appears to have this under-recognized dark side; of the 100 unintended adverse health effects associated with their use, cardiovascular disease and cardiac mortality score highest on the list. 

So, what does one do? Pain is pain. Whether it happens to you, or you witness it in another (which can be worse), finding relief is a top priority.

Research on Natural Alternatives To Ibuprofen

Here is some evidence-based research on alternatives to ibuprofen, sourced from the National Library of Medicine:
  1. Ginger – A 2009 study found that ginger capsules (250 mg, four times daily) were as effective as the drugs mefenamic acid and ibuprofen for relieving pain in women associated with their menstrual cycle (primary dysmenorrhea). [7]
  2. Topical Arnica – A 2007 human study found that topical treatment with arnica was as effective as ibuprofen for hand osteoarthritis, but with lower incidence of side effects.[8]
  3. Combination: Astaxanthin, Ginkgo biloba and Vitamin C – A 2011 animal study found this combination to be equal to or better than ibuprofen for reducing asthma-associated respiratory inflammation.[9]
  4. Chinese Skullcap (baicalin) – A 2003 animal study found that a compound in Chinese skullcap known as baicalin was equipotent to ibuprofen in reducing pain.[10]
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids: A 2006 human study found that omega-3 fatty acids (between 1200-2400 mg daily) were as effective as ibuprofen in reducing arthritis pain, but with the added benefit of having less side effects.[11]

  6. Panax Ginseng – A 2008 animal study found that panax ginseng had analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity similar to ibuprofen, indicating its possible anti-rheumatoid arthritis properties.[12]
  7. St. John’s Wort – A 2004 animal study found that St. John’s wort was twice as effective as ibuprofen as a pain-killer.[13]
  8. Anthrocyanins from Sweet Cherries & Raspberries – A 2001 study cell study found that anthrocyanins extracted from raspberries and sweet cherries were as effective as ibuprofen and naproxen at suppressing the inflammation-associated enzyme known as cyclooxygenase-1 and 2.[14]
  9. Holy Basil – A 2000 study found that holy basil contains compounds with anti-inflammatory activity comparable to ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin.[15]
  10. Olive Oil (oleocanthal) – a compound found within olive oil known as oleocanthal has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen.[16]
There are, of course, hundreds of additional substances which have been studied for their pain-killing and/or anti-inflammatory effects, and there are also aromatherapeutic approaches that do not require the ingestion of anything at all, but there is also a danger here. When we think of taking an alternative pain-killer to ibuprofen, we are still thinking within the palliative, allopathic medical model: suppress the symptom, and go on about our business. It would behoove us to look deeper into what is causing our pain. And when possible, remove the cause(s). And that often requires a dramatic dietary shift away from pro-inflammatory foods, many of which most Westerners still consider absolutely delightful, e.g. wheat, dairy, nighshade vegetables and even wheat-free grains, etc.


[3] Analgesic use and the risk of hearing loss in men. Am J Med. 2010 Mar;123(3):231-7. PMID: 20193831
 Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.
Sayer Ji is the founder of GreenMedInfo.com and the author of The Dark Side of Wheat. His writings and research have been published in the Wellbeing Journal, the Journal of Gluten Sensitivity, and have been featured on numerous websites, including Mercola.com, NaturalNews.com, Reuters.com, GaryNull.com, Infowars.com, Care2.com.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

6 Horrifying Things About Pork Everyone Should Know


American hog farmers have managed to eliminate all wholesomeness, purity, ethics and animal welfare from the pork industry.


You know things are bad in the pork industry when the whistleblowers aren't animal rights activists, but the government itself. In May, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Office of the Inspector General exposed extreme sanitation and humane violations in 30 US swine slaughterhouses it visited and in records of 600 other US plants slaughtering pigs.

"During FYs 2008 to 2011, FSIS [Food Safety and Inspection Service, the regulatory agency within USDA] issued 44,128 noncompliance records (NRs) to 616 plants; only 28 plants were suspended, even though some plants repeated violations as egregious as fecal matter on previously cleaned carcasses," says the Office of the Inspector General report. "In one plant, flies hovered over an area where blood was being collected to be sold for human consumption" (for products like blood sausage and blood soup). Twenty-two of the 28 plants that were actually suspended were allow to "continue to operate within a short period--some as little as one day after suspension," says the report. There's a deterrent for you.

This is not the first time the USDA Office of the Inspector General has sounded the safety alarm about the meat supply. A 2010 report warned that farmers were feeding drug-laced milk, banned for human consumption, to calves. "When the calves are slaughtered, the drug residue from the feed or milk remains in their meat, which is then sold to consumers." Two years earlier, an OIG report warned that USDA officials "believed the sanitizer spray was sufficient" to kill the prions that spread Mad Cow disease. Prions are not inactivated by cooking, heat, autoclaves, ammonia, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, phenol, lye, formaldehyde, or radiation!

The OIG swine report comes as US regulators consider the proposed acquisition of 87-year-old, Virginia-based Smithfield foods by Shuanghui International. If approved, the $4.7 billion deal would be the biggest takeover of any US firm, not just a food company, by a Chinese company. Some worry Smithfield will suffer from China's scandal-ridden food climate in which thousands of pig carcasses were recently seen in a river that supplies Shanghai's drinking water and rat meat was billed as lamb. (And don't forget the US pet dogs killed from tainted Chinese dog food in 2007.) But others say the US hog industry has managed to eliminate all wholesomeness, purity, ethics and animal welfare without China's help.

Here are some of its worst features.

1. Diseased Animals

You don't have to be a mathematician to conclude that if a plant slaughters 19,000 pigs a day, the line moves pretty fast. OIG officials write that "Inspectors are required to check 'the head, tail, tongue, thymus gland, and all viscera of each animal slaughtered . . . [and to] observe and palpate the mesenteric lymph nodes' as well as 'grasp, turn, and observe both sides of the kidneys' to find parasites, inflammation, swelling, or masses that might indicate disease."

But some inspectors are sleeping on the job, says the report. Two inspectors who failed to palpate kidneys and lymph nodes said they were "distracted," a third had a "history of performance issues," according to the plant and a fourth was "new." Another risk is a new plan called HACCP Inspection Models Project that stresses microbiological tests on a sampling of carcasses rather than visual checks on all animals. (HACCP has been called a gift to industry from regulators.) "We question whether this is a better measure for food safety," says the report because it can't catch "tuberculosis nodules embedded within the lymph nodes, parasites within the intestine, and inflamed or degenerated organs that are unusually sticky to the touch or excessively firm." Yum.

2. Filth

When it comes to filth,The Jungle, the turn-of-the-century muckraking novel about Chicago slaughterhouses that drove the first meat safety laws, is still the law of the land. One slaughter plant visited by OIG officials received repeat citations for violations  like "fecal contamination on a hog after the final trim," "grease  smears" or "black colored liquid substance" on processed meat; and 43 repeat violations for "pest control problems, such as cockroaches on the kill floor."

At a different plant, an inspector "observed yellow fibrous fecal material on the left hind foot of one carcass" which had "moved past the plant's quality control employees without being detected." At still another plant, an inspector neglected to mark a tray of viscera "inedible" that had been contaminated "when a plant employee cut through the rectum while removing the viscera for inspection." What are slaughterhouse conditions like when OIG inspectors are not present, the reports asks repeatedly, since their presence was well known to plant managers during their visits.

3. Environmental Blight

In 2006, Rolling Stone magazine ran an exposé about Smithfield hog operations with a photo of a mountain of dead, pink pigs, that many still remember. The liquid in the infamous "holding ponds" of manure on hog farms is not brown, wrote author Jeff Tietz-- it is actually pink thanks to the "interactions between the bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs." To alleviate swelling lagoons, workers sometimes "spray the waste on surrounding fields, which results in what the industry daintily refers to as ‘overapplication.’ This can turn hundreds of acres--thousands of football fields--into shallow mud puddles of pig shit. Tree branches drip with pig shit," wrote Tietz.

In 2004, the Chicago Tribune’s Andrew Martin reported similar sanitation horrors at the HKY Farm in Bloomfield, Nebraska. "Dozens of dead piglets are dumped in piles or encased in pools of manure beneath the floor, having drowned there after falling through a hole," he wrote. "Dead hogs remain in their cages, discarded and stiff in walkways or rotting in pens as other pigs gnaw at their carcasses."


4. Drugs: Not On the Label, But In the Meat


Veterinary drugs given to animals on factory farms whether antibiotics, antiparasite and fungal drugs, vaccines, heavy metals and additives in feed (to impart color to meat) or growth promoters do not appear on labels.  But one drug used in 45 percent of US pigs since 1999 to promote leanness is especially worrisome. Unlike most veterinary drugs which have to be withdrawn before slaughter, ractopamine is begun in the days before slaughter and never withdrawn.

Three years after ractopamine's approval, the FDA accused its manufacturer Elanco, Eli Lilly’s animal subsidiary, of withholding information about "safety and effectiveness" and "adverse animal drug experiences." Elanco, said the FDA in a 14-page warning letter, failed to report furious farmers phoning the company about "dying animals," "downer pigs," animals "down and shaking," "hyperactivity," and "vomiting after eating feed with Paylean [ractopamine]."

In 2009, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) termed ractopamine a cardiac stimulator capable of causing undue stress and health risks in animals. The journal Talanta said there was, "potential hazard for human and animal health." And a report from Ottawa’s Bureau of Veterinary Drugs says that rats fed ractopamine developed a constellation of birth defects like cleft palate, protruding tongue, short limbs, missing digits, open eyelids, and enlarged heart.

5. Strange Scientific Phenomena

In the US hog industry, animals live under such unnatural conditions and are treated with so many drugs, scientific phenomenon are developing that actually baffle scientists. In 2007 and 2008, 24 workers at Quality Pork Producers (QPP) in Austin, Minnesota, Indiana Packers Corp. in Delphi, Indiana and Hormel Foods Corp. in Fremont, Nebraska came down with a mysterious autoimmune disease doctors dubbed Progressive Inflammatory Neuropathy or PIN. All employees had jobs using compressed air to turn hog brains into a slurry for the overseas food markets and were exposed toaerosolized brains. PIN caused tingling and numbness of the limbs and progressive weakness sometimes leading to wheelchairs, hospitalization and paralysis. Some PIN patients stabilized or improved but others didn't. One worker improved after a period of rehabilitation, reported a medical journal but "a few months after returning to work developed the polyradicular pattern experienced by other workers," and relapsed.

Meanwhile, in the last few years, a foam-like "gray bubbly substance" has appeared on top of hog manure in factory size hog farms, reports Mother Jones and has caused at least six explosions and a fire that took many animals' lives. Scientists cannot explain the foam, which grows to a thickness of up to four feet and pulsates with apparent microbial activity. It sounds like something that would be grown in a test tube--except that the test tube is the size of a factory farm.

6. Cruel Slaughter

You can't talk about slaughterhouses without talking about cruelty. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 was passed to prevent excessive cruelty to animals and requires that they be made insensitive to pain before being "shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast or cut." Whether or not an animal is properly stunned and insensible to pain is easy to determine, writes Temple Grandin, the animal expert in her"Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter guidelines." A properly stunned animal will not vocalize, kick, flop its head, exhibit rhythmic breathing or blink and if it does, it needs to be restunned, says Grandin. Of course whistleblower and newspapers reports often show that stunning is a detail lost in cut rate production.

And so does the May OIG report. "An inspector observed an attempt to stun a hog with a captive bolt gun," it reads. "It appeared to misfire and became lodged in the hog’s skull. The hog remained conscious and aware while the plant sent for another gun, which was about 2 minutes away.  The second gun also appeared to misfire causing the hog to squeal, but it remained conscious and aware.  The hog then managed to dislodge the first gun from its skull.  Ultimately, a portable electric stunner had to be used to successfully render the hog unconscious." The incident was one of several violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act described in the OIG report. The plant was not suspended.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter and the author of Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus Books).

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Nancy Huehnergarth