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When you are strolling down the poultry aisle, did you ever wonder about the history of the bird that is shrink-wrapped into that tidy little package?
Have you ever wondered about the role chickens have played in the lives and culture of humans worldwide?
Chances are you have not been preoccupied with these questions.
But the answers expose a dark blanket that has been pulled over the eyes of society, hiding the truth about what an amazing creature the chicken is and it's special gift to humankind: the egg.
Eggs are even more revered by the French than by Americans, as Chef Stacpoole so passionately extols in the above quote. After all, how could you make classic French dishes like crepes, souffl
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Eggs are the culprit behind a U.S. salmonella outbreak that caused hundreds of illnesses each week in June and July. A nationwide egg recall now involves more than a dozen major brands that got eggs from Wright County Egg.
The CDC and state investigators found clusters of salmonella food poisoning among people who ate eggs at the same restaurants.
Those restaurants got eggs that came from Wright County Egg. Investigations continue in Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
According to WebMD:
"The brand names included in the recall are Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms, and Kemps. Recalled eggs are in six, dozen, and 18-egg cartons."Sources:
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Over half a billion eggs from two Iowa farms have now been recalled, after authorities linked them to more than 1,000 cases of salmonella poisoning across the United States.
Ordinarily, eggs are one of the healthiest foods in the world, and in my opinion are at their very best if you eat them raw. Under ideal farming conditions, the risks of contamination should be slim to none, but the U.S. food system is not set up to support these ideals. Instead, most agribusiness "farms" produce eggs in such a way that makes contamination risks soar.
Unsanitary, Inhumane Egg Factory Farms are the Norm
It may sound incredible, but many conventional egg operations contain as many as half a million chickens. Each cage will hold four or five birds, each with an area no larger than a letter-sized sheet of paper on which to "roam." The truth is, many of these chickens can barely move around at all, let alone stretch their wings, forage for food or even spend time in the light of day.
Subsequently, these cage-raised chickens have to be given routine doses of antibiotics and other drugs, all of which have serious health implications for you the consumer.
It is a common misconception that salmonella only contaminates eggs from an external source. This is certainly a factor, as eggshells are porous and whatever the eggshell comes into contact with can cross over this semi-permeable membrane and end up in your eggs, including salmonella.
This is especially true when the eggshells are washed, which is required by most state laws as washing removes one of the barriers that normally protects the eggs from being contaminated.
But eggs can also become contaminated while they are being formed if the salmonella bacteria exist inside a chicken's ovaries. Hens can become infected by eating rodent droppings or contaminated feed, and then pass the salmonella on to their eggs.
Eggs from Large Farming Operations More Likely to be Contaminated
Chickens raised in unsanitary conditions are far more likely to be contaminated, and lay contaminated eggs. In fact, one study by the British government found that 23 percent of farms with caged hens tested positive for salmonella, compared to just over 4 percent in organic flocks and 6.5 percent in free-range flocks.
As you might suspect, contamination occurred most often at farms that contained the most birds, typically 30,000 or more. These large farming operations had flocks that contained over four times the average levels of salmonella compared to the smaller flock sizes allowed under British organic standards.
As for the latest recall, it seems it was only a matter of time before illnesses occurred, as the owner of the farms had a pattern of serious safety and health violations.
Recalled Eggs' Supplier a "Habitual Violator"
The massive egg recalls came from the Iowa farms Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, both of which use Quality Egg for supplies of young chickens and feeds. Both Quality Egg and Wright County Egg are owned by Austin Jack DeCoster, a businessman who has been cited for health and safety violations so many times he's known as a "habitual violator."
As CBS News reported, DeCoster's many violations include:
- A $2-million fine to settle citations of harmful bacteria, unsanitary conditions, electrical hazards and unguarded machinery at a Maine farm.
- Being named as a "habitual violator" for violating environmental regulations, including hog manure runoff into waterways, which prevented him from building new farms.
- A $1.5-million settlement for an employment discrimination lawsuit that claimed women were subjected to sexual harassment, including rape, by some supervisory workers at DeCoster's plants.
- Penalties for animal cruelty allegations.
- Numerous immigration raids.
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the latest salmonella outbreak, but given the company's sordid history I think it's safe to say most Americans would choose to buy their eggs elsewhere -- if they knew what was really going on behind the scenes.
But these eggs, which are sold under numerous brand names and shipped to various locations from institutions to restaurants, bear little evidence of their past once nestled into an innocent-looking egg carton and placed on your grocery store shelf. That is, until people start getting sick.
By then, of course, it is too late, which is why I so strongly urge you to avoid eggs that come from these types of massive factory farming operations, and instead get eggs from a local farmer you know and trust.
Egg Recall Signals a Much Deeper Problem .
The U.S. food system is in a very sad state, which is why most Americans are no strangers to food recalls. In 2006, we had spinach pulled from the shelves as though it were radioactive waste. Then, in 2008 the largest beef recall in U.S. history took place, followed by a slew of recalls involving lettuce, jalapeno peppers and tomatoes, to name just a few.
Eggs are only the latest examples of this food system gone wrong, and at the root of the problem is farming done on a mass-production scale with little regard for cleanliness and natural needs of the animals.
About 95 percent of the eggs produced in the U.S. come from gigantic egg factories housing millions of hens under one roof. You can only imagine how difficult -- if not impossible -- it is to keep millions of birds in one location and still produce a product that's safe to eat.
Unfortunately, the industry's answers to making your food safe are only contributing to the problems. Rather than focusing on the root of the problem -- which is the poor conditions in which most food is grown and raised -- regulators are trying to mask it with chemicals and other unhealthy "food safety" practices.
In 2008, the U.S. government decided to allow food producers to irradiate fresh spinach and iceberg lettuce in order to kill organisms like E. coli and salmonella, but at the expense of nutrients.
This way, agribusiness can continue to grow and process spinach and lettuce in the filthiest conditions imaginable, and it will still be perfectly safe for you to eat it, thanks to the varying doses of radiation.
There is speculation that this latest salmonella outbreak will provide a springboard for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin a campaign to irradiate or pasteurize all eggs -- a move that would destroy many of the valuable nutrients that make eggs such a healthy food to begin with, while letting irresponsible and in some cases criminal food producers completely off the hook for growing and distributing contaminated food.
Already, the FDA is recommending that retailers, consumers and food service outlets use pasteurized eggs to avoid contracting salmonella, when in reality all that is needed to prevent this contaminant is to raise chickens in sanitary, humane conditions.
On the flipside, there are also salmonella vaccines in the works, both for farm animals and for humans. Vaccines, especially those for people, are often better received just after the height of an "outbreak" like this one, as occurred last year with H1N1. It's an interesting coincidence, if nothing more .
So far the FDA has decided not to mandate vaccination of hens against salmonella, but that may all change in the wake of the egg recall.
Where Should You Get Your Eggs?
As with many types of food-borne illness, you can help to lower your risk by seeking out only high-quality food. For eggs, salmonella infections are usually present only in conventionally raised commercial hens.
If you purchase your eggs from a source with healthy chickens, the infection risk reduces dramatically. Remember, only sick chickens lay salmonella-contaminated eggs, so as always it is important to know where your food comes from. And if you don't ask, they won't tell you.
The key here is to buy your eggs locally. About the only time I purchase eggs from the store is when I am traveling or for some reason I miss my local egg pickup.
Fortunately, finding high-quality organic eggs is relatively easy, as virtually every rural area has small farmers with chickens. If you live in an urban area, visiting the local health food stores is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality local egg sources.
One hundred years ago many people raised their own chickens and in fact in many communities chickens and eggs were actually a form of currency. Fortunately, today many individuals continue to raise their own chickens.
Without question the single best source you can find is a local farmer who is raising their chickens humanely and not in a factory farm. The chickens should be allowed outside and eat insects. If you find these eggs the yolks will be bright orange due to the increased nutrients.
Next best would be organic grown but NOT omega-3 eggs as it will likely have rancid omega-3 in them. The chicken should also be free range. But please remember that eggs from local farmers are nearly always superior and fresher.
Farmers markets are another great way to meet the people who produce your food. With face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you're buying. Better yet, visit the farm -- ask for a tour. If they have nothing to hide, they should be eager to show you their operation.
Your egg farmer should be paying attention to proper nutrition, clean water, adequate housing space, and good ventilation to reduce stress on the hens and support their immunity.
The CDC and other public health organizations will advise you to thoroughly cook your eggs to lower the risk of salmonella, but eating eggs raw is actually the best in terms of your health. You are better off seeking eggs from only high-quality sources, which are the ones that will be safe from the get-go, and then consuming them raw, which is their most nutritional state.
For more tips on eggs, including how to identify fresh, high-quality eggs, please read Raw Eggs for Your Health.
What to do if You Get Salmonella .
Salmonella is a serious infection, but if you are healthy your immune system should be able to fight it off relatively easily. A strong immune system is your best defense against any pathogenic bacteria you come across, and will serve you well if you nourish it with the proper tools.
That said, even the healthiest of us can become a victim of food poisoning, especially if your immune system is depressed due to illness or stress.
If your case of salmonella infection is severe, you should seek medical treatment, as severe food poisoning can be fatal. If your stools turn black or have a tar-like consistency, it's a sign you're severely dehydrated and may need IV fluids. In cases of severe illness, you may also need to be treated with antibiotics. However, some salmonella bacteria have become resistant to many commonly used antibiotics.
Fortunately, most cases can be treated at home, using a few time-tested all natural strategies.
First and foremost, you need to make sure you're staying properly hydrated, so drink plenty of clear liquids, such as pure water and broth. You may also need to take some form of oral electrolyte, found in most pharmacies.
Then, most importantly, make sure you take a high-quality probiotic. Probiotics have been found effective against acute diarrhea, but large therapeutic doses are required (typically an entire bottle over a day's time or about an eighth of a bottle every hour until the problem is resolved).
Keep in mind there are many inferior probiotics on the market. I suggest asking a trusted expert in your local health food store for their recommendation. If you don't have such a resource and want to take advantage of my experience, I sell a couple of probiotic supplements that I spent over five years researching and formulating to ensure superior quality.
Typically, with rest, plenty of fluids and high-quality probiotics, you should be back on your feet in no time.
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Food System Raises Risk of Widespread Contamination
A genetically modified (GM) crop has been found thriving in the wild for the first time in the United States. At the recent Ecological Society of America conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, researchers broke the news that transgenic canola is growing freely in parts of North Dakota.
GM crops have spread from cultivated land to the wild in several countries, but they have not previously been found in uncultivated land in the United States.
The scientists behind the discovery say this highlights a lack of proper monitoring and control of GM crops in the United States.
"The extent of the escape is unprecedented," says Cynthia Sagers, an ecologist at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, who led the research team that found the canola (Brassica napus, also known as rapeseed).
Sagers says the discovery of plants that are resistant to two major herbicides shows that "these feral populations of canola have been part of the landscape for several generations."Sources:
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
It's a well-known fact that conventionally-grown crops can cross-breed with genetically modified (GM) plants, as pollen easily disperses over large areas by wind, roving wild animals, and insects.
Farmers across the world have experienced this problem, and many have been sued by Monsanto for growing patented crops without paying the requisite licensing fees - despite the fact that the farmer didn't want the GM crop growing in his field in the first place.
And although nature itself can't be sued for patent infringement when sprouting seeds created by man, the ramifications of GM plants proliferating unchecked in the wild may have more far-reaching consequences than anyone might suspect.
The fact is, no one knows exactly what might happen when plants with different sets of genetically engineered traits start to mix with conventional- and other GM varieties, as this creates completely unintended hybrids.
These second- and third-generation hybrids may pose additional risks, on top of those already linked to each individual GM variety. Plants could turn into interminable 'pests' that can't be killed; new insects will likely begin to proliferate while others are kept at bay; and unforeseen health hazards may ensue if the plant in question is used in food production.
GM Varieties Cross-Breeding, Creating Newer Unintended Breeds
In the US, over 90 percent of all canola grown is genetically modified, compared to just over 20 percent in the rest of the world.
According to Nature News, the research team discovered two varieties of transgenic canola in the wild, plus a third GM variety that is a cross of the two GM breeds.
One of the transgenic varieties found was Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola, which is engineered to be resistant to glyphosate, and the other was Bayer Crop Science's Liberty Link canola, which is resistant to gluphosinate.
The third variety contained transgenes from each of these, and is resistant to both types of herbicide.
Private, for-profit companies like Monsanto have unleashed something into nature that will proliferate, cross-breed, and create new plants that we simply do not understand. This is particularly disturbing when it comes to food crops, such as canola, which is used in a vast number of processed food products consumed by millions of people.
The fact that GM crops can infiltrate conventional crops is a concern for any food where GM experimentation is taking place. For example, in 2004, Hawaii reported widespread contamination of papaya crops by GM varieties. Even seed stocks sold as conventional were found to be contaminated, which threatened the existence of organic papaya, and opened farmers up to lawsuits.
These types of transgene contaminations are completely unavoidable once you start growing them out in the open- including the cross-mixing of GM breeds.
Science has recently revealed that the genome (whether plant, animal or human) is not constant and static, which is the scientific base for genetic engineering of plants and animals. This means that you may not necessarily get the results you think you're going to get when you insert or remove genetic material.
Instead, geneticists have discovered that the genome is remarkably dynamic and changeable, and constantly 'conversing' and adapting to the environment. This interaction determines which genes are turned on, when, where, by what and how much, and for how long.
They've also found that the genetic material itself has the ability to be changed according to experience, passing it on to subsequent generations.
Why GM Crops are a Threat to Your Health
I believe that aside from common sense, which says it might not be such a good idea to consume toxins in every bite of food (which is what you're doing when you eat a food that contains built-in pesticide or herbicide), there's compelling scientific evidence demonstrating that GM foods can cause a number of health problems, and that these health problems may get more and more critical with each passing generation.
I recently interviewed GMO expert Jeffrey Smith on this topic. In that interview, he discussed a recent Russian animal study that illustrates the generational health hazards of a GM diet.
In the second generation, GM soy-fed hamsters had a five-fold higher infant mortality rate, compared the controls.
But it got worse, because nearly all of the third generation hamsters fed GM soy were sterile...
As you may know, genetically modified crops weren't released until 1996, starting with GM soy, corn and cotton. Modified canola came about a year later.
Humans have much longer life spans than hamsters and other lab animals, so we have not even begun to see the health effects of GM foods on our FIRST generation yet!
We're still nowhere near seeing the full effects of these potential ramifications in humans, as we're only about 15 years into it. But if the effects are anything like the effects on numerous types of animals, we could be looking at significant health problems, including sterility on a grand scale as our great-grandchildren grow up...
The fact that the US is completely unwilling to implement the precautionary principle with regards to GM foods is incomprehensible in light of the findings we already have from animal studies.
Additionally, some 800 genetically engineered food applications have been submitted to the USDA, but not one single environmental impact statement has been prepared!
So not only are human health ramifications ignored, but the entire eco system is being jeopardized.
Health Effects of GM Foods
I strongly believe that one of the most obvious clues about the danger of GMO foods is that animals virtually never opt to eat a GM food if conventional food is available. Many times they will avoid GM food to the point of starvation - a clear indication that they have an intuitive sense of the danger inherent with this food.
Many people are unaware of the fact that no safety study has ever proved that GM foods are safe for consumption. Studies have, however, linked GM foods to:
- Food allergies
- Damage to your immune system
In a 2007 article published on the Institute for Responsible Technology's web site, Jeffrey Smith also points out several animal studies that show a number of different GM foods appear to cause liver damage.
Your liver is a main detoxifier in your body, so liver damage can indicate that your toxic load is simply too great. In his article Smith includes the following study results (for full references, please see the original article):
- The livers of rats fed Roundup Ready canola were 12-16 percent heavier, possibly due to liver disease or inflammation
- Rats fed GNA lectin potatoes had smaller and partially atrophied livers
- Rats fed Monsanto's Mon 863 corn, engineered to produce Bt-toxin, had liver lesions and other indications of toxicity
- Rabbits fed GM soy showed altered enzyme production in their livers as well as higher metabolic activity
- Microscopic analysis of the livers of mice fed Roundup Ready soybeans revealed altered gene expression and structural and functional changes. Many of these changes reversed after the mice diet was switched to non-GM soy, indicating that GM soy was the culprit. The findings, according to molecular geneticist Michael Antoniou, PhD, "are not random and must reflect some 'insult' on the liver by the GM soy"
With all the evidence against them, why are these products still on the market?
Because there's big money to be made - these seeds are all patented and must be purchased anew each season -- and because it's difficult to link health problems directly to them, in large part because many of the side effects happen over time - it may even take generations before certain health outcomes become apparent. So there's plenty of room for denial.
Only time will reveal, as Jeffrey Smith points out in this excellent video, the extent of the unforeseen and surprising illnesses caused by GM foods.
The question is, are you willing to 'wait and see,' which equates to playing Russian Roulette with your grandchildren, and great-grandchildren's, health?
If you're still unconvinced, I highly recommend you read through Smith's ten-part Huffington Post series on GM foods. It's a great read, loaded with valuable information.
How to Avoid GM Food
There are currently eight major GM food crops on the market, so memorizing this list will help you avoid any and all food products that might contain GMO's:
- Cottonseed (used in vegetable cooking oils)
- Canola (canola oil)
- Sugar from sugar beets
- Hawaiian papaya
- Some varieties of zucchini
- Crookneck squash
You'll also want to avoid any kind of derivative of these, such as high fructose corn syrup, for example.
Depending on where you live within the European Union, you may also have to contend with the recently approved AmFlora potato, designed by BASF, which contains a gene that produces an enzyme which can confer resistance to several antibiotics. The European Commission approved the commercial growing of the GM potato in early March of this year, despite widespread protests, and concerns raised by the EU's pharmaceutical regulator.
Part of the potato is also allowed to be used in cattle feed, and the meat will not need to be labeled as GM.
Your best bet to avoid genetically modified foods is to take advantage of local sources of organic foods as often as you can. Remember, some 75 percent of processed foods contain GM ingredients, so you'll want to avoid as many processed foods as possible.
MUST HAVE Copy of Non-GMO Shopping Guide
The easiest way to avoid ending up with GM foods in your shopping cart is to do some pre-planning using this free non-GMO shopping guide. The Institute for Responsible Technology has also created a free iPhone application that is available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications.
The shopping guide lists the various derivatives of each crop to be avoided, and even better, it lists hundreds of brand products in 22 food categories that are non-GMO, so if you're still buying processed foods, at least you can easily select a brand that does not use genetically modified ingredients.
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