Thursday, January 3, 2019

Turmeric's 'Smart Kill' Properties Put Chemo & Radiation To Shame

Turmeric's 'Smart Kill' Properties Put Chemo & Radiation To Shame

The ancient Indian spice turmeric strikes again! Research finds turmeric extract selectively and safely killing cancer stem cells in a way that chemo and radiation can not.
A groundbreaking new study published in the journal Anticancer Research reveals that one of the world's most extensively researched and promising natural compounds for cancer treatment: the primary polyphenol in the ancient spice turmeric known as curcumin, has the ability to selectively target cancer stem cells, which are at the root of cancer malignancy, while having little to no toxicity on normal stem cells, which are essential for tissue regeneration and longevity.
Titled, "Curcumin and Cancer Stem Cells: Curcumin Has Asymmetrical Effects on Cancer and Normal Stem Cells," the study describes the wide range of molecular mechanisms presently identified by which curcumin attacks cancer stem cells (CSCs), which are the minority subpopulation of self-renewing cells within a tumor colony, and which alone are capable of producing all the other cells within a tumor, making them the most lethal, tumoriogenic of all cells within most if not all cancers.  Because CSCs are resistant to chemotherapy, radiation, and may even be provoked towards increased invasiveness through surgical intervention, they are widely believed to be responsible for tumor recurrence and the failure of conventional treatment.
The study identified the following 8 molecular mechanisms by which curcumin targets and kills cancer stem cells:
  • Down-regulation of interleukin-6 (IL-6): IL-6 is classified as a cytokine (a potent biomolecule released by the immune system) and modulates both immunity and inflammation. It's over expression has been linked to the progression from inflammation to cancer. Curcumin inhibits IL-6 release, which in turn prevents CSC stimulation.
  • Down-regulation of interleukin-8 (IL-8): IL-8, another cytokine, is released after tumor cell death, subsequently stimulating CSCs to regrow the tumor and resist chemotherapy. Curcumin both inhibits IL-8 production directly and indirectly.
  • Down-regulation of interleukin-1 (IL-1): IL-1, a family of cytokines, are involved in response to injury and infection, with IL-1 β playing a key role in cancer cell growth and the stimulation of CSCs. Curcumin inhibits IL-1 both directly and indirectly.  
  • Decrease CXCR1 and CXCR2 binding: CXCR1 and CXCR2 are proteins expressed on cells, including CSCs, which respond to the aforementioned cytokines in a deleterious manner. Curcumin has been found to not only block cytokine release, but their binding to these two cellular targets.
  • Modulation of the Wnt signaling pathway: The Wnt signaling pathway regulates a wide range of processes during embryonic development, but are also dsyregulated in cancer. Curcumin has been found to have a corrective action on Wnt signaling.
  • Modulation of the Notch Pathway: The Notch signaling pathway, also involved in embryogenesis, plays a key role in regulating cell differentiation, proliferation and programmed cell death (apoptosis), as well as the functioning of normal stem cells. Aberrant Notch signaling has been implicated in a wide range of cancers. Curcumin has been found to suppress tumor cells along the Notch pathway.
  • Modulation of the Hedgehog Pathways: Another pathway involved in embryogenesis, the Hedgehog pathway also regulates normal stem cell activity. Abnormal functioning of this pathway is implicated in a wide range of cancers and in the stimulation of CSCs and associated increases in tumor recurrence after conventional treatment. Curcumin has been found to inhibit the Hedgehog pathway through a number of different mechanisms.
  • Modulation of the FAK/AKT/FOXo3A Pathway: This pathway plays a key role in regulating normal stem cells, with aberrant signaling stimulating CSCs, resulting once again in tumor recurrence and resistance to chemotherapy. Curcumin has been found
  • in multiple studies to destroy CSCs through inhibiting this pathway.
As you can see through these eight examples above, curcumin exhibits a rather profound level of complexity, modulating numerous molecular pathways simultaneously. Conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy is incapable of such delicate and "intelligent" behavior, as it preferentially targets fast-replicating cells by damaging their DNA in the vulnerable mitosis stage of cell division, regardless of whether they are benign, healthy or cancerous cells.  Curcumin's selective cytotoxicity, on the other hand, targets the most dangerous cells – the cancer stem cells – which leaving unharmed the normal cells, as we will now learn more about below.

Curcumin and Normal Stem Cells

Normal stem cells (NSCs) are essential for health because they are responsible for differentiating into normal cells that are needed to replace damaged or sick ones. If curcumin were to kill normal cells, like radiation and chemotherapy, it would not provide a compelling alternative to these treatments.  The study addressed this point:
"The safety of curcumin has been long established, as it has been used for centuries as a dietary spice. The question arises as to why curcumin does not seem to have the same deleterious effects on normal stem cells (NSCs) as it does on CSCs. There are several possible reasons that curcumin has toxic effects on CSCs, while sparing NSCs."
The study offered three potential explanations for curcumin's differential or selective cytotoxicity:
  • Malignant cells take in much more curcumin than normal cells.
  • Curcumin alters the microenvironment of cells in such a way that is adverse to CSCs and beneficial to NSCs.
  • Curcumin may not only directly attack CSCs, but may encourage them to differentiate into non-lethal, more benign cells.

Concluding Remarks

This study adds growing support to the idea that safe, time-tested, natural substances are superior to synthetic ones. Given the evidence that a safe and effective alternative may already exist, chemotherapy, radiation and even surgery may no longer be justified as the first-line standard of care for cancer treatment. In fact, a significant body of evidence now implicates these treatments in worsening prognosis, and in some cases driving cancer stem cell enrichment in tumors. Radiotherapy, for instance, has been found to induce cancer stem cell like properties in breast cancer cells, essentially increasing their malignancy and tumoriogenicity by 30 fold.  This is hardly progress when one considers the role that CSCs play, especially in contributing to post-treatment secondary cancers.
Turmeric and its components, of course, are not FDA approved drugs, and by definition the FDA will not allow an unapproved substance, natural or synthetic, to prevent, treat, diagnosis or cure a disease.  This means that you will not be seeing it offered by an oncologist as an alternative to chemotherapy or radiation any time soon.  This does not, however, mean that it does not work. We have gathered over 1500 citations from the National Library of Medicine's bibliographic database MEDLINE, accessible through pubmed.gov, and which can be viewed on our database here: Turmeric Research, showing that curcumin and related turmeric components possess significant anti-cancer activity.  Truth be told, the information is so extensive, revealing over 700 possible health benefits, that I believe this plant embodies a form of intelligence and even compassion. You can learn more about this supposition here: Turmeric's Healing Power: A Physical Manifestation of Compassion?  I also discuss this concept in my lecture, Food As Medicine Rebooted, which you can watch below: 


Of course, the point is not to wait until one has such a severe health problem that taking heroic doses of spices or herbs becomes the focus. It is important to remember that ancient cultures used spices like turmeric mainly in culinary doses, as part of their dietary practices. These smaller amounts, delivered mainly as whole food extracts, likely constituted effective preventive strategies – perhaps preventing the need for radical, heroic intervention later in life. If you read our previous article, Turmeric: A Wellness Promoting Tonic at Low Doses, Research Reveals, you'll see this point explored in greater depth in light of a human clinical study.
For more research on turmeric and cancer, you can view our two database sections on these topics below:
To learn more about the profound healing properties of turmeric consider watch the Turmeric presentation put together by K.P. Khalsa and Sayer Ji, and which is free along with a video and e-book library of learning to members, starting with as little as 25 cents a day. Become a member or learn more here.

Article originally published: 2015-03-22 
Article updated: 2019-01-02 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Curcumin Targets Cancer

How Curcumin Targets Cancer

spices and herbs

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • The bioactive ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, responsible for over 150 potentially therapeutic activities in your body
  • Curcumin has demonstrated preventive and treatment actions against cancer cells, and may help both reduce the negative effects of chemotherapy agents and intensify the cancer-killing abilities of the drugs
  • Consumed alone, bioavailability of curcumin is poor; however, there are methods that may improve absorption and help raise your therapeutic levels
By Dr. Mercola
Turmeric, a yellow curry spice used in Indian cuisine, has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin is one of the most well-studied bioactive ingredients in turmeric,1 having over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and powerful anticancer actions.
Cancer has an incredible global impact and places a vast financial and emotional burden on the families it touches. Nearly 40 percent of American men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and over $125 billion is spent annually on medical treatment and patient care.2
The American Cancer Society estimated there would be over 1.6 million new cases diagnosed in 2017, equating to 4,630 new cases and 1,650 deaths every day.3 The most common types of cancer include breast, colon, lung and prostate.4
Despite advances in cancer treatment protocols, scientists realize prevention plays an essential role in reducing the number of people who die from the disease. After 30 years of testing more than 1,000 different possible anticancer substances, the National Cancer Institute announced that curcumin has joined an elite group that will now be used in clinical trials for chemoprevention.5

Curcumin May Play a Multitargeted Role Against Cancer Cells

In this interview, Dr. William LaValley discusses the interaction curcumin has on cancer and the multiple ways this molecule affects cancer growth. If you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, it may feel as if it grew overnight when, in fact, cancer cells take years to develop.
The progression of a cell from normal growth to cancer happens through several stages. Deregulation of physiological and mechanical processes that initiate and promote the growth of cancer cells makes use of hundreds of genes and signaling routes, making it apparent a multitargeted approach is needed for prevention and treatment.
Research has demonstrated that curcumin has a broad range of actions as it is able to effect multiple cellular targets.6 Studies have found, based on the activities of curcumin in the body, the spice could be an effective method of cancer prevention, or in treatment when used in conjunction with conventional treatment protocols.
The multifaceted action of curcumin has made it useful in the treatments of several different types of diseases, including colon cancer,7 pancreatic cancer8 and amyloidosis.9
Curcumin triggers a variety of actions that affect the growth, replication and death of cancer cells. Cancer cells lose the ability to die naturally, which plays a significant role in the hyperproliferation of cells common to cancer. Curcumin is able to turn on the apoptosis (cell death) signaling pathway, enabling the cells to die within a natural time span.10
Cancer cells thrive in an inflammatory environment. Although short-term inflammation is beneficial for healing, long-term inflammation increases your risk of disease. Curcumin is able to block the pro-inflammatory response at several points and reduce the levels of inflammatory cytokines in the body.11
The strong anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may match the effect of some drugs.12 Early in development, cancer cells learn to replicate and grow in an environment cells normally find inhospitable. Curcumin may change the signaling through several pathways, and put a stop to this replication.13
Curcumin may also stop the ability of cancer stem cells from replicating and reduce the potential for recurrence after treatment. Curcumin also helps support your immune system, capable of seeking out and destroying early cancer cells naturally.

Curcumin May Enhance Cancer Treatment and Chemotherapy

Some of the same ways that curcumin works in your body are the processes used to enhance your cancer treatments and chemotherapy.
While some chemotherapy has been developed to target specific cells, most therapy drugs are nonspecific and affect all cells in your body. Some studies in the past decade have demonstrated exciting potential for curcumin in the fight against cancer.
In addition to changes to your cells mentioned above, researchers have found curcumin may help protect your body against the damage caused from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and it may enhance the effect of these same treatments, making them more effective.
These effects have been demonstrated in animal models treating head and neck tumors,14 and in culture of human breast, esophageal and colon cancers.15,16
Patients treated for chronic myeloid leukemia with chemotherapy exhibited a reduction in cancer growth factor when curcumin was added to the treatment protocol, potentially improving the results of the chemotherapy over being used alone.17
Protection against radiation therapy was demonstrated in a study using breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.18 At the end of the study those taking curcumin had less radiation damage to their skin.
Curcumin has also been effective against angiogenesis in tumors, or the growth of new blood vessels to feed the overgrowth of cancer cells, and against metastasis.19
Curcumin is able to affect cancer cells through multiple pathways and has fulfilled the traits for an ideal cancer prevention agent as it has low toxicity, is affordable and is easily accessible. However, while effective, it has poor bioavailability on its own.20

Poor Absorption Has One Benefit

In my interview with LaValley, he discussed the poor bioavailability of curcumin in raw form. Only 1 percent of the product will be absorbed; even supplements that have a 95 percent concentration are absorbed at 1 percent.
This means, when the supplement is taken alone, it is a challenge to maintain a therapeutic level. However, in the case of colon cancer, this poor absorption into the bloodstream may be an advantage.
As there is poor absorption, higher levels of curcumin stay in the intestinal tract for longer periods of time, having an effect on gastrointestinal cancers. In one study, participants took a 1,080 milligram (mg) dose per day of curcumin for 10 to 30 days between their initial biopsy and surgical removal.
The patients taking the supplement experienced a reduction in blood levels of inflammatory agent, improvement in their body weight, and an increased number of dying tumor cells.21
A team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and at Pondicherry University, India, discovered the bioactive ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can both prevent and cure bowel cancers.22 The team found the compound triggered cancer cell death by increasing a level of protein labeled GADD45a.23Lead author Rajasekaran Baskaran, Ph.D., who has more than 20 years of experience in cancer research, commented:24
"Studies on the effect of curcumin on cancer and normal cells will be useful for the ongoing preclinical and clinical investigations on this potential chemopreventive agent."
As an increased bioavailability and absorption may also improve the actions of curcumin in the body, researchers have studied a variety of different delivery methods, including oral, intravenous, subcutaneous and intraperitoneal, as well as different formulations of the product.25
Bioavailability improved when curcumin was delivered as a nanoparticle, in combination with polylactic-co-glycolic acid, liposomal encapsulation26 and when taken orally with piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper.27

Multiple Types of Cancer Affected by Curcumin

Research demonstrates that while curcumin has multiple pathways through which it impacts cancer cells, the substance also has an effect on multiple types of cancer. Studies estimate that genetics may play a role in approximately 5 percent of all cancers, with the majority of cancer growth attributed to lifestyle choices.28
Research demonstrates curcumin exhibits activity against breast cancer and decreases the toxic effect against some of the chemotherapy agents commonly used.29 Mitomycin C is a potent antineoplastic drug. However, prolonged use may lead to kidney and bone marrow damage, with secondary tumor growth. Curcumin appears to reduce the side effects of Mitomycin C and improve the efficiency of the drug at the same time.30
Another study demonstrated that curcumin inhibited the growth and metastasis of lung cancer cells.31One of the deadliest cancers worldwide, pancreatic cancer, also appears to respond to the use of curcumin in preclinical trials.32 The antiproliferative effects on pancreatic cancer appeared to be from a reduction in oxidative stress and angiogenesis and triggering apoptosis of cancer cells.
Apoptosis, anti-inflammatory actions, reduction in angiogenesis and reduction in the adverse effects of chemotherapeutic agents has also led researchers to consider curcumin an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of liver cancer.33 Curcumin also inhibited and slowed the development of bladder cancer in rats,34 stopped the formation of metastasis in prostate cancer,35 and when combined with ultrasound, increased death of cervical cancer cells.36
But not all scientists are convinced by the number of studies over the past 15 years demonstrating the multiple effects curcumin has on the inflammatory response and cancers, as well as the low toxicity profile.37 In one meta-analysis, researchers claimed curcumin could not meet the criteria for a good drug candidate.38

More Benefits to Curcumin

Curcumin offers additional benefits to your health. It may work as well as some anti-inflammatory medications to treat arthritic conditions.39 In combination with aerobic exercise, curcumin was found to improve endothelial cell function in postmenopausal women,40 and was also found to ameliorate arterial dysfunction and oxidative stress in the elderly.41
Disease processes may increase oxidative stress and free radical formation in your body. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant,42 but also may boost the function of your body's own antioxidant enzymes.43
Your brain can develop new connections powered by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).44Reduced levels of this hormone may be linked to depression and Alzheimer's disease. However, curcumin can increase your levels of BDNF45 and effectively reduce your potential for suffering from age-related reduction in brain function.46
Researchers have also discovered that curcumin has an effect on several pathways in your body that may reverse insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia and other symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.47 The reduced potential for metabolic syndrome and obesity is related to the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, which may also have an effect on heart disease, atherosclerosis and Type 2 diabetes.48

Genetic Regulation May Be One Powerful Way Curcumin Fights Cancer

It is becoming widely accepted that cancer is not a preprogrammed inevitability, but rather the result of the impact of your environment on genetic regulation that may trigger cancer cell growth. There are multiple influences that may damage or mutate DNA, and consequently alter genetic expression, including:
Nutritional deficiencies
Stress
Free radical damage
Toxins and pollution
Chronic infections
Infectious toxic by-products
Hormonal imbalances
Chronic inflammation
Researchers have demonstrated curcumin may affect more than 100 different pathways in your cells, helping to prevent hyperproliferation of cell growth characteristic of cancer, and aiding in the treatment of the disease. Through the reduction of inflammation, prevention of the development of additional blood supply to support cancer cell growth and destruction of mutated cells to reduce metastasis, curcumin has great medicinal and preventive potential.
Several studies have demonstrated an impact on transcription factors and signaling pathways, and have reviewed the molecular mechanisms curcumin uses to regulate and modulate gene expression.49,50,51 Overall, curcumin is powerful, cost-effective and has a low toxicity profile.52

Using a Curcumin Supplement

Turmeric is a wonderful spice used in Eastern culture cuisine. It is one spice I recommend for your kitchen as it works well with tomato sauces, soups, leafy greens, cauliflower, stir-fries and stews. Choose a high-quality turmeric powder instead of curry powder as studies have found some curry powders have very little curcumin.
If you are looking for therapeutic effects, you may want to consider a supplement. It is difficult to achieve a dose of curcumin used in research solely from your diet. Typical anticancer doses range between 1,200 and 3,000 grams of bioavailable curcumin extract.
You can increase the absorption by making a microemulsion, combining 1 tablespoon of curcumin powder with one or two egg yolks and 1 to 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil, as the curcumin is fat soluble. Then use a hand blender on high speed to emulsify the powder.
Absorption may also be increased through boiling. Add 1 tablespoon into a quart of boiling water. (If you add it to room temperature water and then boil, it doesn't work as well.) After boiling it for 10 minutes, you will have created a 12 percent solution and you can drink this once it has cooled down. The curcumin will gradually fall out of the solution over time, and in about six hours it will be a 6 percent solution, so it is best to drink the water within four hours.
Curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you aren't careful. To avoid inadvertently staining your kitchen yellow, I recommend you perform any mixing under the hood of your stove with the exhaust fan on to make sure no powder gets into your kitchen.
Alternatively, it is far easier to take curcumin in supplement form — just make sure it's a high-quality brand that is formulated to increase bioavailability. And, look for a turmeric extract with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. Just be aware that these are relatively rare and hard to find.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Banned Drugs Found in Your Meat

Banned Drugs Found in Your Meat


STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • 83% of supermarket meats (turkey, pork, ground beef and chicken) are contaminated with fecal bacteria, including drug-resistant bacteria; contaminated chicken is responsible for the greatest number of foodborne illnesses
  • Testing reveals meats may also contain drugs that are banned for use in food animals. Drugs such as ketamine, phenylbutazone and chloramphenicol are all found in the U.S. meat supply
  • Possible routes of entry include improper use, use of counterfeit drugs or contaminated feed, and intentional misuse driven by profit seeking
  • A number of samples were found to contain banned drugs at levels above the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service cutoff. Still, no action was taken
  • Food inspectors visually inspect 140 carcasses per minute — between two and three chickens per second — for the presence of fecal material; they test for drugs and bacteria during spot checks only
By Dr. Mercola
Factory farmed chicken has been identified as the food responsible for the greatest number of foodborne illnesses, thanks to the presence of pathogenic bacteria, many of which are resistant to antibiotics. Now, testing reveals chicken and other meats may also contain drugs that are banned for use in food animals.
As reported by Consumer Reports,1 drugs such as ketamine, phenylbutazone and chloramphenicol are all found in the U.S. meat supply.
"The data — as well as Consumer Reports' review of other government documents and interviews with farmers, industry experts, government officials and medical professionals — raise serious concerns about the safeguards put in place to protect the U.S. meat supply,"the article states, adding:2
"These concerns start with how poultry, cattle, and pigs are raised in this country. And they include questions about how the federal government tests meat from these animals, and how it investigates and enforces potential violations."

Banned Drugs Found in Meats Across US

The Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of the American meat supply. The FSIS test data in question came to light during discovery in a lawsuit against Sanderson Farms, brought by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety.
The plaintiffs claim Sanderson Farms falsely advertises its chicken as 100 percent natural, as the company feeds its chickens antibiotics.3 (Sanderson Farms is also facing a class action lawsuit by investors,4 who charge the company with making "materially false and misleading statements regarding the company's business, operational and compliance policies."
According to the complaint, Sanderson has been engaged in price fixing, which is a violation of antitrust laws, and revenues during the three years in question were therefore the result of illegal conduct.)
Through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, OCA, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety obtained FSIS testing data showing the presence of a number of drugs that are strictly prohibited for use in beef, poultry and/or pork production. Other meat samples were found to contain drugs that, while not banned, must be eliminated from the animal's system before it can be slaughtered. According to Consumer Reports, which reviewed the data:
"The samples came from producers large and small, and included meat destined for supermarkets, restaurants, hospitals, schools and elsewhere. Yet FSIS officials have taken little if any action based on the data.
When asked to explain why not, Esteban, at the FSIS, said the samples didn't meet several criteria used by the agency to decide when a sample requires follow-up testing. For example, he said that some results came from tests that have never been validated for certain animals or drugs.
And, he said, in many cases the results were below a level that the agency considers worrisome. The agency subsequently released a second set of data that, it says, reflected test results after those criteria had been applied, and that made the initial results invalid.
In a written response, an agency spokesperson said, 'Reporting preliminary unconfirmed data will be misleading as these data do not represent any public health risk to consumers.' Consumer Reports' food safety scientists disagree."

Why Is FSIS Ignoring Its Own Test Results?

One Consumer Reports food safety scientist is James E. Rogers, Ph.D. Rogers was a microbiologist at the FSIS for 13 years before joining Consumer Reports as director of food safety research and testing. According to Rogers:
"These results are credible enough that you would expect the government to take the warning signs seriously. You would hope the results would prompt the agency to look into why these drugs may be present, what risks they could pose, and what could be done to protect consumers."
The FSIS also has higher cutoff limits for drugs and other chemicals (such as pesticides) than other government agencies, which raises even more questions about safety. In the case of the potent and dangerous antibiotic chloramphenicol,5 the FSIS cutoff is 10 times higher than that of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).6 As noted by Consumer Reports:
"Some experts … worry that by relying on higher cutoffs, the FSIS may overlook possible health threats. Some research, including a 2015 review in the Journal of Veterinary Science & Toxicology, suggests that long-term exposure to low levels of drug residue in meat could increase the risk of cancer, fetal harm, antibiotic resistance, and more."
What's more, a number of the samples were found to contain banned drugs at levels above the FSIS cutoff. Still, no action was taken. Also befuddling is the FSIS' failure to investigate how the drugs are getting into the meat in the first place.

Four Drugs of Concern

The four drugs identified as particularly troubling, and the levels found in some of the 6,000 meat samples, were:
Chloramphenicol7 — This antibiotic is associated with several toxic effects in humans, including aplastic anemia (inability to produce new blood cells, basically, a fatal form of anemia), and this effect is not dose dependent.
Because of its severe health risks to humans, chloramphenicol is only permitted in dogs and cats, yet the drug was found in beef, chicken, pork and turkey samples. The highest levels were found in beef.
In all, 81 of 2,865 beef samples contained this dangerous drug, and 12 of them contained levels above the FSIS cutoff (which again is 10 times higher than the FDA's cutoff for imported foods). Pork, followed by chicken, had the next-highest levels.
Phenylbutazone — This anti-inflammatory pain reliever is also known to cause aplastic anemia in humans, along with other blood disorders and cancer. Twenty-four of 1,448 pork samples contained the drug; one was above the FSIS cutoff.
Ketamine — Ketamine is a hallucinogenic anesthetic, used experimentally as an antidepressant. Of 4,313 beef and pork samples combined, 225 had ketamine above the threshold suggested by Consumer Reports, while 15 were above the FSIS cutoff.
Nitroimidazole — An antifungal drug with suspected carcinogenic activity, of 5,756 beef, pork and poultry samples, 667 contained the drug, 136 of which were above the cutoff set by FSIS.

How Are the Drugs Getting Into the Meat?

In my view, the factory farm system is a breeding ground for intentional misuse, as profits are tied to the weight of each animal So, just how are these drugs entering the meat supply? Consumer Reports lists a number of possible routes of entry or exposure, including:
  • Improper use, such as giving too high a dose or administering too close to slaughter
  • Counterfeit drugs8
  • Contaminated feed
  • Intentional misuse
For example, Consumer Reports notes that "cattle that can't stand on their own are not allowed to be used for meat. So … lame cattle are sometimes given phenylbutazone — a painkiller — shortly before slaughter, so they can 'get the animal through the slaughterhouse gates without anybody looking closer.'"
Chickens are also raised to be as large and meaty as possible. Chicken farmers actually do not own the chickens. The vast majority of chicken farmers in the U.S. are contract farmers. The poultry company owns the chickens from start to finish, and the farmer gets paid to raise them, based on how large they are at time of processing.
The larger the chickens, the more money the farmer makes, and this creates a tempting incentive for farmers to use growth promoting drugs, especially since many drugs aren't even being tested for, and when found, there are no dire ramifications anyway.

US Department of Agriculture Denies There's a Problem

The very same day Consumer Reports published its report, Carmen Rottenberg, acting deputy undersecretary for food safety at FSIS, issued a press statement9 assuring Americans that food safety is her No. 1 priority, and that:
"When you see the USDA mark of inspection, you can have confidence that the products have been inspected and passed — meaning that every carcass has been inspected, samples have been taken by USDA inspectors and analyzed by scientists in a USDA laboratory, and the labeling is truthful and not misleading."
She also explains that the test results showing banned drugs in poultry were "mistakenly released in response to a FOIA request" in the agency's "haste to be transparent and responsive."
"You may have seen a Consumer Reports story claiming that the poultry and meat you purchase in the grocery store and feed your families could contain harmful drug residues. That is not true. This story is sensational and fear-based infotainment aimed at confusing shoppers with pseudoscience and scare tactics," Rottenberg writes.

How Thorough Are Meat Inspections?

However, there's no conceivable way for every single carcass to be thoroughly inspected, sampled and analyzed for the presence of drugs and pathogens. In fact, if you read her statement closely, she admits as much.
According to Rottenberg, the FSIS inspection process involves inspecting every single carcass, testing for drug residues "at multiple points," and if a sample tests positive during screening, follow-up testing is done to confirm it. She also claims that "if drug residues are found in any meat or poultry product, FSIS does not allow that product to be sold for human consumption."
However, just how thorough of an inspection can you do when, as a food inspector, 140 carcasses per minute go by? That's the line speed for slaughter, which means an inspector is looking at two to three chickens per second! (The line speed in processing plants is unregulated.) Last year, the National Chicken Council petitioned the FSIS to increase the slaughter line speed to 175 birds per minute. As noted by Food Safety News,10
"The primary food safety threat in this part of the process is removing visible fecal material … Because the presence of feces on carcasses is gross, a facility has every incentive to ensure it is removed as no one would purchase the product. Similarly, since feces can present a food safety threat, continued visual inspection by FSIS is necessary."
Visual inspection for fecal contamination certainly makes sense, but neither bacteria nor drugs can be detected visually, and a carcass does not need to have visual excrement on it in order to be contaminated with fecal bacteria. Each year, an estimated 8 billion11 to 9 billion12 chickens are processed in the U.S. Are these billions of chickens tested for pathogens and drugs? No. That's done through sampling.
If every single carcass were tested for pathogens and drugs, and none found to contain harmful substances were sold for human consumption, chicken would not be causing more than 3,100 foodborne illnesses each year13 and spot testing14 of meat sold in grocery stores across the U.S. would not reveal fecal bacteria on 83 percent of supermarket meats (turkey, pork, ground beef and chicken).15,16
Clearly, the reality of such findings does not conform to Rottenberg's assurances that every single carcass undergoes thorough inspection and testing. Factory farmed chicken in particular has become a notorious carrier of salmonella, campylobacter, clostridium perfringens and listeria bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains.17

Is FSIS Just Trying to Cover Up Its Shortcomings?

Rogers has also published an extensive reply to Rottenberg’s press statement. As a former FSIS scientist who is familiar with the agency’s testing, his rebuttal is informative, and I suggest you read it in its entirety, although I’ve included a longer than normal excerpt below.18
Based on Roger’s rebuttal, it seems clear that USDA is engaging in a deceptive PR strategy, accusing Consumer Reports of fearmongering and publishing unverified results, even though the data came from their own testing. Rogers explains, in part:
“As a scientist and former FSIS official, I intimately understand how the agency collects, tests, and measures contaminants in food. When we looked at testing data from the FSIS, both an initial and then revised set, serious concerns came to light about the process, the standards applied, and the findings themselves.
At the heart of the matter is that there should never be any of these banned substances in the food supply.
In the case of this testing, the FSIS created what can only be called an arbitrary and self-determined threshold, far above the legal threshold for the drugs chloramphenicol, ketamine, nitroimidazoles, and phenylbutazone, which is zero and what the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act mandates.
The FSIS has attempted to redirect the conversation about [Consumer Reports’] investigation to make it about the completeness of the data, offering up the explanation that the initial data was preliminary and released in error, and should be dismissed. The meat industry has, not surprisingly, supported that position.
Here’s the truth: The initial data set recorded thousands of data points showing detectable amounts of drugs in meat samples. The revised set issued by FSIS, using their arbitrary threshold, showed many of the results changed to ‘Residue Not Detected.’
However, when the results that did remain were compared to the initial set, near-identical results appeared, including down to the final decimal place. The only scientific conclusion we can draw is that the entire initial data set is both real and meaningful; in many cases, trace amounts were no longer included simply because they did not meet the FSIS’s arbitrary threshold.”

USDA Is Charged With Promoting Factory Raised Meat

A part of the USDA's dilemma is the fact that, while responsible for food inspection and safety, it is also responsible for the promotion of the very industry it regulates. You're probably aware that the food industry has the power to influence your eating habits through the use of advertising and lobbying for industry-friendly regulations.
What you might not be aware of is the fact that the U.S. government actually funds some of these activities through the collection and distribution of taxes on certain foods, including beef.19 By doing so, the government is actively supporting agricultural systems that are adverse to public and environmental health, and discourages the adoption of healthier and more ecologically sound farming systems such as grass fed beef production.
In a nutshell, the USDA beef checkoff program20 is a mandatory program that requires cattle producers to pay a $1 fee per head of cattle sold. It's basically a federal tax on cattle, but the money doesn't go to the government; it goes to state beef councils, the national Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB) and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).
All of these organizations are clearly biased toward the concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) model. The money is collected by state beef councils, which keep half and send the other half of the funds to the national CBB, which is in charge of the national beef promotion campaign. Nationwide, the beef checkoff fees add up to about $80 million annually.
As the primary contractor for the checkoff program, the NCBA receives a majority of the checkoff proceeds, which is used for research and promotion of beef. The iconic "Beef, it's what's for dinner" slogan came out of this program.
USDA food inspectors are also vulnerable to regulatory capture — a term used to describe what happens when inspectors become excessively influenced by industry — since they're trying to enforce the law while working in a facility that pays for the inspector's services.21

Not Eating Meat Is Not the Answer

While the presence of drugs and pathogens in meat might make you consider giving up on meat altogether and becoming a vegetarian, it's important to realize that the problems with CAFOs by extension affects vegetables as well. CAFO manure is frequently used as fertilizer, and if there are dangerous pathogens in the manure, the plants become carriers.
Biosolids may also contain hazardous levels of heavy metals and other toxins. The most recent outbreak of E. coli — which infected 210 people in 36 states and killed five — was traced back to romaine lettuce contaminated by a nearby cattle farm.22,23
Runoff from the farm's manure lagoons is thought to have entered and contaminated a nearby canal, and this E. coli-tainted water was then used for irrigation on the lettuce fields. CAFOs are also a major source of groundwater contamination. As noted by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality:24
"Nationwide and in Arizona, the potential for surface and ground water pollution exists through livestock facility discharge of manure-contaminated run off to natural waterways and through wastewater leaching to aquifers."

Buy Local

One of the best ways to ensure food safety is to shop locally from a farmer you know and trust. Most farmers are happy to answer questions about how they grow and raise their food, and will give you a tour if you ask them. This may be particularly important for chicken.
While many grocery stores now carry organic foods, it's preferable to source yours from local growers whenever possible, as many organic foods sold in grocery stores are imported.25 If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
Demeter USA — Demeter-USA.org provides a directory of certified Biodynamic farms and brands. This directory can also be found on BiodynamicFood.org.
American Grassfed Association — The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.
Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; and born and raised on American family farms.
EatWild.com — EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.
Weston A. Price Foundation — Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
Grassfed Exchange — The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.
Local Harvest — This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.
Farmers Markets — A national listing of farmers markets.
Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) — CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The Cornucopia Institute — The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
RealMilk.com — If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund26 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.27 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.