Table of Contents:

Foreword

Introduction

I. Storm Gathering

1. 1918

2. Master of Metamorphosis

3. H5N1

4. Playing Chicken

5. Worse Than 1918?

6. When, Not If

II. When Animal Viruses Attack

1. The Third Age

2. Man Made

3. Livestock Revolution

4. Tracing the Flight Path

5. One Flu Over the Chicken's Nest

6. Coming Home to Roost

7. Guarding the Henhouse

III. Pandemic Preparedness

1. Cooping Up Bird Flu

2. Race Against Time

3. Tamiflu

IV. Surviving the Pandemic

1. Don't Wing It

2. Our Health in Our Hands

3. Be Prepared

V. Preventing Future Pandemics

1. Tinderbox

2. Reining in the Pale Horse

Topics

References 1-3,199

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Brianna Kriefall, victim of E. coli

Unnatural feeding practices have also been blamed for the emergence of the E. coli O157:H7, best known for the 1993 Jack-in-the-Box outbreak that infected more than 500 kids and adults when burgers contaminated with infectious fecal matter were distributed to 93 restaurants.1161 McDonald’s, however, was ground zero for the first E. coli O157:H7 outbreak the decade before.1162 A mother offers an eyewitness account of what the bug did to her three-year-old daughter, Brianna:
The pain during the first 80 hours was horrific, with intense abdominal cramping every 10 to 12 minutes. Her intestines swelled to three times their normal size and she was placed on a ventilator. Emergency surgery became essential and her colon was removed. After further surgery, doctors decided to leave the incision open, from sternum to pubis, to allow Brianna’s swollen organs room to expand and prevent them from ripping her skin. Her heart was so swollen it was like a sponge and bled from every pore. Her liver and pancreas shut down and she was gripped by thousands of convulsions, which caused blood clots in her eyes. We were told she was brain dead.1163
Alexander Thomas Donley, age six, stopped screaming only after E. coli toxins destroyed his brain before his death. “I was so horrified and so shocked and so angered by what happened to him,” said his mother Nancy, now president of Safe Tables Our Priority, a Chicago-based advocacy organization. She continued,
I had no idea that there was any problem in our food supply. I loved my child more than anything in this world. And then to find out that he died because there were contaminated cattle feces in a hamburger. And to find out that had been recognized as a problem for a while. Why hadn’t it been fixed?
Later, when testifying before a congressional subcommittee, a Senator repeated to her the same line she had heard countless times before, that the United States has the safest food supply in the world. Nancy Donley stared up at him and said, “Senator, I beg to differ with you.”1165

Nancy was right. Steve Bjerklie, as editor of the U.S. trade journal Meat and Poultry, described the industry’s “mantra”: “It’s spoken by dozens of industry leaders and government regulators, even intoned by fact-finding academicians who should know better,” he wrote. “Over and over, at convention after convention, meeting after meeting, one hears the words droned by industry speaker after industry speaker, as if the existence of the words as sound waves in the air confirmed their truth: ‘We have the safest meat and poultry supply in the world.’”1166 Unfortunately, he admits, the facts don’t support the claim.

Most European nations don’t allow profitable but risky practices like the chilling baths that add water weight—and bacteria—to poultry in the United States. Sweden’s poultry is virtually Salmonella-free. In Sweden, it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law, and has been since 1968 after a Salmonella outbreak caused 9,000 illnesses.1167 In the United States, eggs continue to infect more than 150,000 Americans annually.1168 The U.S. industry trade group United Egg Producers openly brags about obstructing public health measures, crowing in its “Washington Report” that it added language to the USDA inspection budget that effectively killed the Salmonella testing program.1169 According to Marion Nestle, former director of Nutrition Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a longtime chair of the nutrition department at New York University, “Major food industries oppose pathogen-control measures by every means at their disposal.”1170

In the United States, Salmonella is on the rise. The USDA recently reported an 80% increase in the number of chickens contaminated with Salmonella since 2000. The chair of the department of epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and former official in the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service told the New York Times in March 2006 that when it comes to poultry products, “[i]t continues to be buyer beware.”1171

The Netherlands’ E. coli O157:H7 testing program, according to Bjerklie, “makes USDA’s look like quality control at the ‘Laverne and Shirley’ brewery.” This may be because their meat inspection program falls under the Netherlands’ Ministry of Health, not the Ministry of Agriculture.1172 As far back as 1979, the National Research Council,1173 the Government Accountability Office,1174 the Institute of Medicine1175 —and even the conservative Food Marketing Institute1176 —have called for the formation of an independent food safety authority similar to what exists in Europe, but to no avail.1177

In 2002, ConAgra recalled 19 million pounds of E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground beef in one of the biggest meat recalls in U.S. history,1178 yet it raised little public alarm. Where was the beef? “If 19 million pounds of meat distributed to half of this country had been contaminated with a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria by terrorists,” wrote one columnist, “we’d go nuts. But when it’s done by a Fortune 100 corporation, we continue to buy it and feed it to our kids.”1179

Given the alleged collusion between industry and government,1180 parents are forced to take responsibility. One public health official put it bluntly:
Somebody had to come right out and say, because it wasn’t getting said because people were tiptoeing around the issue, “Parents, if you’ve got a child in a hospital laying there with [organ failure]…and you’re the one who served them red hamburger, you’re as responsible for the illness as if you had put them in the front seat of a car without a seat belt or a car seat and drove 90 miles an hour through red lights.”1181
This sentiment is typical of the industry’s blame-the-victim attitude. A more appropriate analogy might be sitting one’s child in a pre-1970s car with no seatbelts before the consumer movement forced auto makers to include them.

E. coli O157:H7 means children can now die from going to a petting zoo.1182 Since 1990, the CDC has reported more than two dozen separate outbreaks in children linked to petting zoos.1183 There is no reason for anyone’s children to get E. coli poisoning from this or any other source. E. coli O157:H7, like many of these other new diseases, is thought to be a by-product of our new intensive confinement system of animal agribusiness.

The changes in the digestive tracts of cattle fattened in feedlots with energy-dense grain to marble the flesh with saturated fat (instead of natural cattle foodstuffs like hay) has been blamed for the emergence of E. coli O157:H7. Grain-fed beef may be more tender, but grass-fed beef may be safer.1184 In a familiar refrain, instead of altering feeding practices or eliminating the crowded feedlots that lead to manure-encrusted hides, the industry has decided it’s more cost-effective to invest in chemical carcass dehairing technologies to lessen fecal contamination.1185