Showing posts with label Antibiotics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antibiotics. Show all posts

Monday, May 14, 2012

Supermoms Against Superbugs

Greetings everyone,

Two years ago, I wrote about the clear and present danger presented by the over use of antibiotics in the livestock industry in The Morality of Meat. Children dead within days of being exposed to Methicillin Resistant Staph (or MRSA), the development of superbugs resistant to our antibiotics - it scares the shit out of me.

Despite all the attention to childhood obesity, I firmly believe that this is the number one public health crisis in America. We need to change the hearts and minds of our government and our populace, to demonstrate the importance of keeping our antibiotics safe and effective for our children when they need them.

Because of my advocacy in this area, I was selected to be a “Supermom” for an event called Supermoms Against Superbugs. Today, Thor, Mike, my mom and I travel to DC to participate tomorrow in a day of advocacy in Washington, D.C. We will celebrate and unite moms and dads across America to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for their children and families.

Organized by The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, our goal is to encourage the White House and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reduce antibiotic overuse in food animal production—a practice that breeds drug-resistant bacteria that can make us sick.

I will be joined by chefs, pediatricians, farmers, and everyday moms who have a particular interest in this issue.  Some raise food animals without the routine use of antibiotics, some serve meats raised without antibiotics in their restaurants and homes, some work on the frontlines treating a growing number of children with antibiotic-resistant infections, and some have personal stories to share about how antibiotic resistance has impacted their lives.

I hope you will join me by participating virtually! No planes, trains, or automobiles required, just a computer with an Internet connection, a smart phone, or a tablet.

Here are some things you can do:
·         Visit Supermoms Against Superbugs to learn more about the event, including bios on all of the Supermoms and a list of virtual actions you can take on May 15. 

·         Follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we prepare for our trip and take Washington by storm!

Thank you for your support!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs that Won't Need to Be Recalled

Among the food safety recalls this week was Lean Cuisine Simple Favorites Spaghetti with Meatballs. According to Reuters:

"The U.S. unit of Nestle on Monday recalled some Lean Cuisine packaged meals after people found red plastic pieces inside meatballs.

Nestle said it was recalling Lean Cuisine Simple Favorites Spaghetti with Meatballs packages produced in a one-hour period last October.

The packages have a product code of 13800-10390 and a product code 0298595519 P.

Nestle did not say how many people found plastic in their food but said there were no injuries reported.

The company also said that due to the product's popularity, it believed little was left at retail. It asked anyone who had the product to call (866) 606-8264."


While I'm of course horrified at the prospect of people swallowing red plastic with the ground pork and beef. The plastic isn't necessarily the scariest ingredients in the mix. This is the ingredient list from Lean Cuisine's website:


Blanched Spaghetti (Water, Semolina), Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Water, Beef and Pork, Tomatoes, 2% Or Less Of Modified Cornstarch, Onions, Rolled Oats, Soy Protein Concentrate (With Caramel Color), Bleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Dehydrated Onions, Salt, Basil, Beef Flavor (Salt, Seasoning (Including Hydrolyzed Beef Protein), Tapioca Dextrin, Modified Cornstarch, Palm Oil, Corn Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Arabic Gum), Beef, Spices, Cheese flavor (cheddar cheese (cultured milk, salt, enzymes), water, salt, enzymes, cultures, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum), Dehydrated Soy Sauce (Soybeans, Salt, Wheat), Beef Flavor (Maltodextrin, Salt, Beef Extract, Rendered Beef Fat, Sesame Oil), Egg Whites, Dehydrated Garlic, natural flavors, Cultured Whey, Yeast Extract, Beef Stock, Caramel Color, Potassium Chloride.


While I've seen worse, I certainly wouldn't wouldn't be adding these ingredients into my meatball recipe. More egregious than the chemical stabilizers and preservatives, are the palm oil and the quality of pork and beef used. You can imagine that to get to Lean Cuisine's price point, Nestle is not using sustainably sourced palm oil or antibiotic and hormone free meat.

Back to my meatball recipe, while I cannot claim that this is diet food, it doesn't include junk. Instead, I start out with top notch meat from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm and add in locally sourced ingredients and serve on top of whole wheat spaghetti for my LITTLE LOCAVORES kid or polenta for my carb-fearing husband.

You can watch me (and Little Locathor) make the recipe at Kenmore Live's Healthy Kids Sunday(and screw it up a little bit). See, I'd grabbed a bottle of what I thought was Tomato Mountain Mountain Roasted Tomato Puree, but was in fact Tomato Juice. Fortunately, the samples for the audience were prepared earlier in my commercial kitchen with the proper ingredients so all was well.

Other videos from the day can be found on Purple Asparagus' home page.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Makes about 45 medium sized meatballs

1-1/2 cup 2 % milk
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1 large egg
2 tablespoons sour cream
14 ounces bulk pork sausage
14 ounces ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 head garlic, roasted and cloves mashed
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Tomato Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
6 medium size garlic cloves
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup chicken or beef stock
2 28 ounce cans tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 sprig winter savory
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pinch granulated sugar, optional
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk for 10 minutes in a large bowl. Whisk together the egg and sour cream in a small bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, including the whisked egg, into the bowl with the breadcrumbs. Mix together thoroughly, but gently, with your hands.

Before you begin browning the meatballs, start making the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, less than a minute. Pour in wine and let it reduce by half. Add stock, tomatoes, oregano, savory sprig, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring the pot to a simmer and let it cook for 10 minutes. Taste the sauce and if it seems particularly acidic, add sugar. Cook for another 10 to 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. When the sauce is at the proper consistency, add the cream and cook for about 5 minutes. Add vinegar and cook for two minutes longer. Remove from the heat until the meatballs are all browned.

While the tomato sauce is cooking, scoop 1/4-cup size balls onto a parchment or silpat-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roll them into meatballs. Heat the oil in a non-stick sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the meatballs in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook until just browned on one side and flip. They will not be cooked all the way at this point. Remove to another rimmed baking sheet or casserole dish.

Dump in the browned meatballs and any juices that have accumulated in the pan. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes to cook the meatballs.

Serve in a chafing dish, on spaghetti, or on top of Italian bread, sprinkled with parsley.

The meatballs freeze well, so I make a huge batch and add to sauces for a quick and easy dinner. No need for frozen entrees!

Posted as part of Fight Back Friday

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fed Up with Fast Food: Blogging with Mrs. Q

Guess who was guest blogging over at Mrs. Q's well-known Fed Up with Lunch about fast food. Not the little locavore, though he's got plenty to say about McDonald's. Here's a little of what I said:

I’m sure that this blog’s regular readers will remember Mrs. Q’s recent post criticizing McDonald’s ad campaign, which insinuated that its Egg McMuffins are pure and unprocessed. I read this entry with great interest, especially the comments that followed it, many of which were quite critical of her description of the fast food giant’s offerings as “utter crap.” See, my family also does not frequent McDonald’s, or least not any more. Our rationale, however, is a little different than Mrs. Q’s and I wanted to share it given some recent developments at the USDA.

To read more, click here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Morality of Meat

I just read a really scary book.

It wasn’t written by Stephen King or James Patterson . It wasn’t even fiction. But the tales of necrotizing pneumonia and pus filled abscesses caused by a virulent strain of antibiotic resistant bacteria made my hair stand on end.

Maryn McKenna, an award-winning science and medical writer, has created a terrifying and vivid portrayal of drug-resistant staph in Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA. The book has the style of a crisply written detective novel from its first paragraph, comprised of one line:

“Tony Love’s knee ached.”

This ordinary knee ache resulted from a collision on the volleyball court in the Chicago school gym where he scraped his elbow. From this small ordinary childhood injury, came a knee so swollen that this healthy teenager could not put weight on it. The first visit to the ER resulted in a prescription for Motrin and hot towels. A few days later, the teen was in so much pain that he could not walk, go to the bathroom, or even eat. The family made a second visit to the ER where they were referred to U of C’s children’s hospital. Within minutes of their arrival, Tony’s condition worsened and he crashed into septic shock. His body was wracked with infection – a voracious antibiotic resistant staph known as MRSA. Tony ultimately recovered after months of treatment and a few more months of rehab, but the story of how a little bit of bacteria felled an otherwise healthy kid is just the beginning of McKenna’s nightmarish portrayal of the infection that could hit any one of us at any time.

MRSA stands for methicillan-resistant Staphyloccus areus. As the historians among us will recall, the antibiotic era began during World War II. Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the mold that birthed penicillin on a culture dish of Staphyloccus (staph for short) in 1928. Twelve years later, a set of researchers proved the drug’s value to U.S. pharmaceutical companies who then manufactured the drug and sent it to Allied troops curing battlefield infections that previously were fatal. The public saw penicillin’s release in 1944. While it was heralded as a wonder drug, even its creator was beginning to fear the ability of the bacteria to circumvent the drug’s protection.

Given the wont of Americans to overdo, this fear was justified. Penicillin was added to face soaps and body creams and was prescribed to excess. The nimble bug evolved, getting stronger. Much of the book follows the bacteria and its aftermath. Appearing first mainly in hospitals where the patient’s resistance is weak, the bacteria then developed a community strain, infecting individuals with no connection to hospitals, either patients or workers, killing, in some instances, healthy children within hours.

The real story, however, is not the spread of this Superbug, but the system that we constructed to give it life. The over prescribing of antibiotics by busy doctors, overcrowded prisons, and poor hygiene are part of this perfect storm that we’ve created. While these are large contributors, we must not forget the livestock industry.

Between 70 and 80 % of the antibiotics used in this country are given to animals raised for food. While some of these drugs are given to sick animals, the majority is provided either preventatively (i.e. so that otherwise healthy animals will not get ill under the wretched confinement system that they are forced into) or as sub-therapeutic doses to help the animals gain weight so that they can reach slaughter sooner. Despite connections made between the antibiotics used in livestock production and resistant bacteria that infects individuals working with these animals, the livestock industry has claimed that this relationship is not proven with absolute certainty. (Whatever ever happened to the precautionary principle in science?). Their case is growing weaker by the day.

In the late 2000’s, a strain of MRSA know as ST398 emerged in the Netherlands. For years, the Netherlands instituted a stringent “search and destroy” policy to prevent the spread of MRSA. Anyone suspected of carrying MRSA (a patient previously admitted to a hospital in a foreign country or with a leaking wound) went immediately into isolation upon arrival to rid them of the offending bacteria. The system worked. According to McKenna, in 2000, only .03 % newly admitted patients in the Netherlands were carrying MRSA as compared to 2.6 percent in the U.S.

Then the young daughter of a pig farmer arrived at a hospital colonized with MRSA. A doctor from the Netherlands interviewed by McKenna stated that “I saw twenty patients colonized in a year, max, and in every case we knew the source. I had not seen a MRSA infection in fourteen years. Yet here was this little child, who had not been in a hospital abroad. It was amazing.” And, as McKenna adds, unnerving.

It turns out that the family were pig farmers, part of a network of small family farms being “subsumed by large American-style operations with thousands of animals.” The researchers surmised, correctly, that the pigs acquired MRSA and passed it onto the farmers and their families. As this superbug is apt to do, the strain spread from the Netherlands to Canada and then to Iowa. The fear is that this not only will this bacteria act like ordinary staph, colonizing on the skin and in the nose, but that it could potentially act as a contaminant causing foodborne illness. How scary is that?

Before reading Superbug, the question of confinement raised animals was an ethical one for me – whether the misery inflicted upon animals and, for that matter, the humans working in those facilities by the putrid conditions outweighed the need to eat cheap meat. Even the environmental degradation resulting from the inevitable careless management of CAFOs seemed a distant and intangible casualty. For me, Superbug has changed the argument from one of ethics to a moral imperative. In every hamburger of unknown origin, I see Tony Love’s face or even worse that of Carlos Don IV.

Carlos was another healthy kid who left on a school trip to the mountain and returned with a 104°F fever. The first doctor diagnosed Carlos with walking pneumonia so his mother kept him home bundled and hydrated until she realized that he was beginning to hallucinate. She rushed Carlos to the hospital and the doctor’s ultimately diagnosed his condition as MRSA. A long slow death march ensued during which Carlos’s lungs dissolved and clotting choked off the blood to his lower intestines, legs and arms. In two weeks, he was dead.

After reading Carlos’s story late in the evening, I woke my son from a dead sleep to scrub his hands clean. I hugged him as tightly as I could.

Here at the Beet, we like to have a local or personal angle. I just came back from Portland where I was speaking with a friend from Berkeley. She’s devoted to sustainable causes and eats well – I think she may even largely keep a vegetarian diet. Yet, she told me about the antibiotic staph infection she contracted after staying in the hospital for post-op. She eats well, she takes care of herself and yet, she has been impacted by this terrible scourge caused by the misuse of antibiotics. This isn’t about you or me or our personal choices, but how we protect society at large.

On the same trip, I had the pleasure to hear Ruth Reichl speak and she implored the audience to reject confinement raised animal. As she put it, if everyone stopped buying them and eating them, the practice would be history. Knowing what I now know, I think it’s a moral duty.
For more on this issue, read this recent New York Times Op-Ed piece by a former USDA head: Cows on Drugs.
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