Why Last Night’s Marketplace Should be the Start of a Food Safety Revolution in Canada

Posted on April 11, 2011. Filed under: Health |

by Angela February 12th, 2011 Source

Last night’s Marketplace had a very simple premise. Check for antibiotic resistance in chicken because it is the most popular meat eaten in the country. What they found was, in a word used by interviewees on the show, a crisis. Nearly all of the samples tested were resistant against certain antibiotics, some of them resistant to as many as eight antibiotics. Distressingly, even organic chicken that had been raised properly was tested, and it sported the same results.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, here is their website where you can watch the full episode. Their full test results are here.

Here’s a brief rundown of what was in last night’s episode. Overuse of antibiotics on farm animals are one of the reasons that antibiotics aren’t working on us. Chicken and other livestock farmers pump antibiotics into the water and feed of the animals; eggs are even injected with antibiotics before the chickens are born. The simple reason: it makes them grow larger, faster.

Why do farmers give chicken antibiotics?
Rick Smith, head of Environmental Defense, worked with Health Canada on a commitee to examine antibiotic use in animals. He will now only buy antibiotic-free (or advertised as such, more on that later) chicken. Farmers give chicken erythro, amoxycillin, tetracycline, in feed and water to make them bigger faster. In the words of the Marketplace episode, the human equivalent would be to pour antibiotics in your morning cereal whether you are sick or not.

In the show, two-thirds of all of the samples tested had superbugs like e.coli or salmonella, and all were resistant to at least one antibiotic. The PR hack representing chicken farmers said that cooking will kill all bacteria, but Rick Smith argued this is a cop out argument – that consumers should have to solve this problem is “unfair and ridiculous”.

Organic chicken even tested positive
As we said above, all samples, even the organic chicken, tested positive for antibiotic resistance. Some of it was resistant to 5 antibiotics. Marketplace spoke to one of the chicken farmers and visited his barn, where they showed that he did not feed or raise his chickens with antibiotics. His theory was that they were either being contaminated at the slaughterhouse (likely) or antibiotics were injected in the eggs before he bought them.

Do some farmers agree with removing antibiotics?
Some Canadian poultry farmers advocate for antibiotic-free chicken. One of them is Martin Dufresne, who answers the call of a large chicken chain in Quebec, St-Hubert, for antibiotic-free chicken for their restaurants. He says Quebec farmers will be ready in two years. Hopefully guys like Dufresne will work from the inside and network with their fellow farmers to ban antibiotics in chicken. But when you want to take away something that is in the best interest of a business, you have to turn to government regulation.

Write your MP
Even the current minority Conservative government has to see that antibiotics in our meat have become a food safety issue after last night’s Marketplace examination. Write your MP a postal letter, if you can take the time, or a personal e-mail if you can’t go the old-fashioned route. Tell them that you are concerned about the food safety of your family, and would like to see antibiotics removed from chicken, just as they are banned in the European Union.

We have to take action in this country and make sure that our kids have the same protection that kids in the EU do against antibiotics in their meat.


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