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Bob Gottlieb, professor of urban and environmental policy and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI) at Occidental College, spoke to the fellows yesterday about food as an environmental justice issue.  He alluded to the recent discussion in the food justice community about the possibly origin of swine flu, and the reluctance to discuss it public.  Below might give some insight into this issue.

From Food and Water Watch:

Today, amid increasing international concern about the global swine flu outbreak, Food & Water Watch urged leaders of the U.S. Senate and House agriculture and health committees to investigate the serious human health problems caused by industrialized pork production. The national consumer advocacy organization submitted a letter to Chairman Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), asking their respective committees to hold hearings examining the source of the swine flu virus, the pathway for transmission between hogs and humans, and the conditions inside factory farms that could foster the growth and mutation of the influenza virus into more virulent strains. 

“Factory farms have a long track record of maximizing volume and profit at the cost of human health and safe food,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch executive director. “The swine flu outbreak is unfortunately just the latest example of the negative public health impacts from intensive pork production.”

Food & Water Watch warned of other potential threats to human health, including the discovery at U.S. hog facilities of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) – the difficult to treat staph infection – and antibiotic-resistant E. coli on operations using non-therapeutic antibiotics.  

“The public health issues of disease transmission, antibiotic resistant bacteria and worker health are critically important to rural communities, workers, and consumers and any research into these issues must be done in a way that is independent of any industry pressure,” said Hauter in the letter. “Congress needs to prioritize these topics for credible research that is funded and performed by public entities, not the pork industry or its trade associations.”