Five Pillars of Food SafetyDr. Shiv Chopra, B.V.SC., M.SC. PH.D. July 1, 2014
HOW THEY ARE BEING IGNORED BY GOVERNMENT REGULATORS
Reports indicate that every year approximately 36 million Americans and 11 million Canadians contract food-borne infections. Not included in these figures are many more people contracting additional food-borne diseases such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive and other illness. The causes of these diseases trace to five substances which are being utilized in food and agricultural production.
Disease Causing Substances
- Slaughterhouse Waste
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
The word ‘hormone’ originates from ancient Greek. It means ‘to set in motion’. Hormones are chemical substances that all organisms produce and transport via the bloodstream to distant tissues in order to regulate various bodily functions. One example of such functions is the menstrual cycle that women experience every month. Other examples of hormones at work can be seen in the way that insulin regulates the blood sugar level, and how melatonin brings the sleep cycle into conformity with the circadian cycle of the sun.
To regulate such functions, all animals and plants produce hormones as and when needed. Unduly larger, or smaller, production of a hormone can cause serious harm to both individual organisms and their yet to be born offspring. This was what happened to thousands of women in the mid-1940s treated with a hormone called Diethyl-stilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage.
At the time, DES was considered safe for both the pregnant mother and her developing baby and doctors prescribed it routinely to prevent miscarriage. But studies conducted in 1953 showed no benefit to taking DES during pregnancy. Nevertheless, its use for this indication continued. Eventually, in 1971, reports indicated a probable link between DES and vaginal cancer in girls and young women who were exposed to this drug in their mother’s womb. Subsequent studies showed an approximate forty-fold increased risk of vaginal/cervical cancer in women who were exposed to DES in the womb. Daughters born to mothers treated with DES were also recognized to carry an increased risk of breast cancer. In 1971, under pressure from the public, DES was finally banned for use for any of these conditions throughout the world.
Aside from the applications in women, DES was also utilized in food-producing animals to bolster meat production. Cattle, swine and poultry received it in their feed and by injection. The human health effects of this application was a concomitant increase in previously uncommon disorders in children. For instance, girls as young as eight or nine were reported to develop breasts, and similar aged boys to possess defective genitalia. Eventually, oral DES for beef cattle was disallowed in 1972, and its implants the following year. However, the U.S. FDA took no such action against six additional growth hormones used to stimulate beef production.
Much the same timeline was followed, regarding the approval of these hormone preparations, by Health Canada.
In contrast, all hormones created to increase meat production were banned in the European Union (EU). This action became the cause of a bitter trade dispute between Canada/USA and the EU. The position that the EU held at the World Trade Organization was that, according to the commonly agreed upon rules of food safety, any product given to any food-producing animal must be proven to be safe for human consumption by setting a Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) in their daily diet. It was argued that no such MRLs could be established for any product causing cancer. And, since the hormones being used in beef production were known to cause cancer, any beef thus produced, regardless of its origin, would remain banned in the EU.
Interestingly, this also resulted in a bitter conflict within Health Canada when a group of manufacturers applied for approval of numerous different hormones in my own jurisdiction in 1997. The point of this conflict was that the data they submitted in support of their applications showed adverse reactions in cattle, reactions which the original manufactures had not reported. Therefore, my recommendation was to not approve any growth hormones to be utilized in any meat production. However, the decision made by Health Canada was to overrule my recommendation. It was tantamount to corruption. That is where the matter presently stands.
The term ‘antibiotic’ refers to certain toxic substances that microorganisms secrete to prey upon other living cells. The very first antibiotic (penicillin) was discovered by a British biologist, Alexander Fleming, in 1928. He found it in the secretions of a fungus, Penicillium, preying upon certain bacteria. Encouraged by these findings, he published a paper to suggest that penicillin could be beneficial to treat pneumonia and other infections. However, his discovery of penicillin remained untapped until 1945, due to a lack of funds to scale up its production in the UK. Ultimately, the necessary investment was produced by the U.S. Thus, penicillin production was increased and the first clinical trials were conducted on allied soldiers wounded on D-Day.
Ironically, within four years of its common usage, microbes began appearing that resisted penicillin. The most dangerous among these microbes was Staphylococcus aureus. This microbe is usually a fairly harmless passenger in human and animal bodies but, if allowed to overgrow, it can lead to very serious diseases, such as pneumonia, toxemia, multiple organ failure, and death. To avoid such outcomes, scientists made several variants of penicillin, but none produced a lasting solution to rapidly emerging bacterial resistance.
One such variant of penicillin was Methicillin, to which a different strain of Staphylococcus aureus became resistant. It was called Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA. Presently, MRSA hanging around in hospital wards and long-term care facilities has become one of the most dreaded bacteria.
Since the discovery of penicillin, numerous new antibiotics have come into vogue. Foremost among these is Streptomycin. Alone or in combination with penicillin, it is employed to treat various human and animal infections. Streptomycin was also used as a pesticide to prevent bacterial, fungal and algal infections on fruits, vegetables, ornamental crops and seeds.
Such widespread use of antibiotics generated more and more resistance in ever more microbial species. Regardless, antibiotic manufacturers kept peddling them to doctors, dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists and farmers as miracle compounds while churning out more of the same or similar products, all of which led to ever greater and growing antibiotic resistance among various species of bacteria. This was precisely what Fleming feared could occur, as outlined in his Nobel lecture on December 11, 1945.
The antibiotic resistance that Alexander Fleming feared arrived sooner than antibiotic manufacturers had imagined. Their response was to argue that investments were needed to find more ‘life-saving’ antibiotics, for which they would require financial assistance to conduct new research and development. In response, the various government authorities blithely went along and approved literally dozens of new antibacterial agents with exclusive patent rights. Some of these substances were not antibiotics in the true sense of the word in that they were not produced by microorganisms, but by synthetic or semi-synthetic processes in chemistry labs. One such class of antibiotics, Fluoroquinolones, was introduced in the mid-1980s. Two commonly known examples of this class of antibiotics include Ciprofloxacin and its parent compound Enrofloxacin.
What ended up happening with both of these products was that their manufacturers promoted them as the latest remedies to treat completely irrelevant or nonexistent infections, including those caused by viruses. Yet both of these drugs were known to produce very serious side effects. For instance, Ciprofloxacin was known to cause arthritis in growing children; its use therefore being subsequently restricted to people above the age of eighteen. Enrofloxacin, which was not approved for people, was found to cause sudden blindness in cats and dogs.
Enrofloxacin, otherwise known as Baytril, was widely used to prevent frivolous or non-existing infections in cattle, chickens and turkeys. The problem with its use in farm animals was that it degraded in their digestive tracts into Ciprofloxacin. Consequently, it not only generated resistance to Baytril, but also to Ciprofloxacin. Because Ciprofloxacin was approved as a critical antibiotic to treat human infections, its loss to Baytril-induced antimicrobial resistance against human infections raised concerns throughout the world. Consequently, no such applications of antibiotics are permitted in the EU.
The word ‘pesticide’ is composed of two words, pest and cide, meaning ‘pest-killer’. A pest can be any living organism that humans regard as being against their interests. For example, rodents, insects, fungi, moulds, viruses, bacteria, and plants are all referred to as “pests” and, as such, are to be killed with pesticides.
Every pesticide is a poison similar to those produced by snakes, scorpions, insects and microbes – a poison which these organisms secrete for their own defense. The same or similar poisons can also be synthesized to serve as pesticides. Reports indicate that large scale application of such poisons in food and agricultural production results in the poisoning of people as well.
DDT is one pesticide that almost everybody can name. It is a colourless, tasteless and almost odourless compound. Following World War II, it was promoted as a wonder insecticide to control malaria and typhus fever among military and civilian populations across the world. After the war, it was aggressively marketed as an agricultural pesticide. In 1962, an American biologist, Rachel Carson, published the book, Silent Spring, in which she listed the environmental impacts of DDT. The book demonstrated that DDT and other pesticides induced cancer and that their agricultural use was a threat to wild life. This led to a ban on the agricultural use of DDT in the United States (1972), and later throughout the world under the Stockholm Convention (2004), which not only banned agricultural uses of DDT but also several other pesticides. However, long before banning the agricultural use of DDT, many thousands of additional pesticides were approved for the same purpose. Some of the most dangerous pesticides that come to mind since then include Agent Orange (2,4,5-T) of Vietnam War vintage and its offshoot (2,4-D).
The pesticide, 2,4-D, is employed today to kill dandelions and other broad-leaf weeds. Killex is employed to kill dandelions, clover and several other weeds. Roundup is employed to kill virtually every kind of weed. All these pesticides are classified as herbicides. The fact is that all herbicides kill both plant and animal life.
Manufacturers claimed that Roundup was a thoroughly safe herbicide. Introduced on the market in mid-1960, it was described as biodegradable and nontoxic to animal life. Presently, approximately one billion pounds of Roundup (Glyphosate) are sprayed each year on GMO and non-GMO crops worldwide. Reports show that, contrary to claims of Glyphosate being a safe and effective herbicide, it is neither safe nor effective. It is reported to be found in the blood, urine and milk of pregnant mothers. Consequently, it has become a lightening rod of public protest and people throughout the world are asking for it to be banned.
GMOs are man-made life forms created to do things that are otherwise not permitted in nature. Under the laws of nature, no organisms including microbes, plants, or animals are allowed to generate offspring outside of their own species. In effect, no species can breed with any other species to reproduce a fertile offspring of either species. For instance, a microbe cannot breed with a cow to generate a calf, or the other way round. GMOs are not the same as hybrids. For instance, horse and donkey are closely related species. Mule is a hybrid offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. Occasionally, a female mule may produce an offspring, but never a genetically distinct mule, horse or donkey.
In this sense of the word, GMOs are not the same as hybrids. GMOs are created by inserting a gene of interest from a certain species into a completely unrelated species. In doing so, the recipient species is fooled into adopting the functional characteristics of the donor species. For instance, by inserting the human insulin gene into E. coli bacteria, one can get this E. coli to secrete typically human insulin. The same can be done for other products, such as Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH).
The most commonly known GMOs are seeds that are claimed to enhance food and agricultural yields under cover of certain herbicides and pesticides, such as Glyphosate, Bt-toxin, etc. The fact is that GMO crops, such as canola, corn, cotton, soy etc., cannot thrive without the aid of such herbicides/pesticides. Therefore, the public health risk of cultivating and eating such crops is attributed to not only the GMOs, but also the attendant herbicides and pesticides.
Rendered Slaughterhouse Waste
‘Slaughterhouse Waste’ refers to the dead animal discards of meat-producing animals. It contains heads, hooves, horns, bones, blood, skin, feathers and internal organs of these animals, plus the whole bodies of dogs, cats, squirrels, deer, birds, fox, raccoons, skunks, etc., killed in road accidents. Added also to it are millions of naturally dying or purposely killed pets in animal shelters, veterinary clinics, and those in fur factories, research laboratories, including rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, etc.
Thus gathered dead animals are brought to what are known as rendering plants. A rendering plant is a factory where animal wastes are processed into consumable products, including those going into food. Bones are turned into bone meal, blood into blood meal, cartilages and tendons into gelatin, and fat into such things as lard, tallow and glycerin. The rest of this waste is boiled, dried and sold as extra source of protein for food-producing animals.
The goal of a rendering plant is to make easy money. It is not required to distinguish between animals that died of natural causes and those that died due to tuberculosis, encephalitis and other diseases. Nor is it required to separate intestines, eyeballs, feathers, hair, hooves and other tissues entering the food chain.
Aside from animal tissues, certain raw materials end up in the rendered products also. Heavy metals, animal tags, surgical pins, flea collars, fish oil containing bootleg DDT, plastic packaging for food are common ingredients. Final products also contain hormones, antibiotics and pesticides.
Rendering plants market many products considered ‘edible renderings’ for human consumption. Beef fat, chicken fat, pork fat, and fish oil are utilized to manufacture various different products. Gelatin is a common ingredient in yogurt, ice cream, soft candy and, of course, in gelatin capsules. Likewise, tallow is commonly used to fry foods and to make cookies, lipstick and other cosmetics. However, the EU does not allow any rendered slaughterhouse waste to be used for any such purposes.
In USA and Canada, most of the rendered slaughterhouse waste is used to make animal feeds for dairy cattle, beef cattle, swine, poultry, sheep and fish, which the EU does not allow in any of its jurisdictions. The EU has turned the rendering business into a waste disposal industry with millions of tons of animal wastes being incinerated. The reason why the EU banned rendered slaughterhouse waste to make animal feeds, in particular, was to prevent mad-cow disease and its spread to people.
According to the Food and Drugs Act of Canada, the people of this country have the right to obtain safe and nutritious food. Reports indicate that this right is being infringed upon by their own government.
External inputs of hormones, antibiotics, slaughterhouse waste, pesticides, and GMOs into food production are recognized as unsafe for human consumption. Unfortunately, the Canadian government chooses not to note it.
Substances Approved by the U.S. FDA and Health Canada:
• Estradiol benzoate / progesterone implants, approved for steers, since 1956
• Estradiol benzoate /testosterone propionate implants, approved for heifers, since 1958
• Melengesterol acetate (MGA) oral, approved for heifers, since 1968
• Zeronol Implants, approved for cattle, since 1969
• Silastic estradiol im-plants, approved for cattle, since 1982
• Estradiol benzoate /progesterone implants, approved for calves, since1984
• Trenbolone acetate implants, approved for cattle, 1987
• Estradiol/trenbolone implants, approved for steers, 1991
• Estradiol/tenbolone acetate for implants, approved for heifers, since 1994
• A.P. Raun and R.L. Preston, American Society of Animal Science (2002).
My refusal to pass Baytril was essentially the cause of my dismissal by Health Canada. It is presently the subject of two separate litigations by me against Health Canada management.
- Public Health Agency of Canada: Estimates of food-borne illness in Canada, 2008.
- U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: Estimates of food-borne disease in USA, 2007.
- Res. B Centres of Excellence Women’s Health: Beyond DES: Hormones in the environment, 3(2): 19-22, 2003.
- A. Goodman, J. Schorge, & M.F. Greene: The Long-term effects of in-utero exposures. The DES Story, New Eng. J. Med., 364(22), 2083-2084, 2001.
- WHO Report on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (including pesticides), 2012.
- U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention: Antibiotic Resistance Threats Report and Food-borne Germs, 2013.
- Tom Levit: Overuse of drugs in animal farming linked to growing antibiotic resistance in humans. Ecologist: 23 May, 2011.
- Nathan Rankin: Farm Use of Antibiotics Defies Scrutiny. New York Times, Sept. 2012.
- Wikipedia: Antibiotic use in livestock.
- Melissa Conrad Stoppler: Mad Cow Disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. emedicinehealth, 18 June, 2014.
- Nancy Swanson: Scientists outraged at journal retraction of GMO rat study. examiner.com Dec. 4, 2013.
- Nancy Swanson: Seralini study on the toxic effects of a GMOs and glyphosate republished. examiner.com Jun.24, 2014.
Shiv Chopra was a world renowned scientist. A former Senior Scientific Advisor for the regulatory assessment of drugs, vaccines and foods at Health Canada, Dr. Chopra is best remembered for his refusal to pass genetically modified Bovine Growth Hormone, which was designed to induce extra milk production in dairy cows. A recipient of numerous national and international integrity awards, he was the author of Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower, which provides a detailed account of how Health Canada and U.S. FDA officials are failing to enforce the Food and Drugs Act in both these jurisdictions, on the behest of industry lobbies. Dr. Chopra was a coveted speaker, and is currently the Honorary President of the Canadian Council on Food Sovereignty & Health www.CCFSH.org