Factory Farming And Food Recalls
This report from the Journal for Critical Animal Studies relates directly to news headlines regarding food recalls linked to listeria and E. coli.
Data compiled by Faunalytics looked at U.S. Department of Agriculture recalls from 2006 to 2010. During this period, the USDA recalled a total of 211,825,361 pounds of meat-based products. Over half of this was recalled in 2008 (154.7 million pounds), with the majority of the recalls coming from cow-based food products (188.4 million pounds).
The reports showed that the severity of the recalls seems to be decreasing: Class 1 recalls, (the most severe) accounted for 76-86 percent of all recalls in 2006-2008, but in 2009 they accounted for 65 percent and dropped further to 55 percent in 2010.
However, the volume of recalled meat remains very high. Of the 162 recalls due to contamination, 83 percent were due to a food-borne pathogen, including listeria, E. coli and salmonella. (Most of the remaining recalls due to contamination were a result of a foreign object or material, such as metal or plastic, in the food.)
Nearly all of these recall-related issues – and the serious health concerns associated with them – would be mitigated by a shift away from concentrated animal farming. The confinement of large numbers of animals creates a breeding ground for pathogens and diseases, many of which are able to make their way into the food supply.
It should be noted that some past recalls of fruits and vegetables (such as the spinach recall of 2006) have been linked to runoff from livestock farms, which significantly expands concerns beyond just meat-based products.
The USDA should be lauded for the transparency it provides with food recalls, but more is needed. Those in charge of food safety must seek out the source of food recalls and eliminate the most likely causes: large animal farms and intense confinement systems.
Derived from “USDA Food Recalls, 2006-2010” published in Journal for Critical Animal Studies, Volume 9, Number 2, 2011 , pp. 97-103.
Note: This research nutshell comes from Jill Howard Church at the Animals and Society Institute (ASI), an organization dedicated to policy-oriented research and human-animal studies. HRC and ASI already collaborate on multiple projects and we will work together to identify important studies for future research nutshells.