Release date: 
Thursday, December 16, 2004

Will you be one of the five million people who suffer agonising food poisoning this year or maybe even one of the hundreds who die from it? A new report into the risks posed to human health by modern meat production shows that there is greater risk at Christmas than at any other time of year. The report, published by campaign group Viva!, reveals that:

- up to two-thirds of turkeys may be contaminated with campylobacter - a food poisoning bug causing hundreds of deaths a year;
- administering antibiotics to turkeys and chickens has led to the rise of 'superbugs, such as MRSA;
- up to 70 per cent of heavier turkeys are so obese that they suffer constant pain from lameness;
- Boxing Day pork is equally unhealthy, with around a quarter of UK's pigs possibly carrying salmonella;
- more food poisoning occurs in December than any other month.

The fully referenced, 56-page report, Dishing the Dirt: The Secret History of Meat, takes a critical look at the whole process of meat production, from farm to plate. It examines the way that modern farming techniques cause disease in animals and pose a threat to human health. The report examines everything from the state of slaughterhouses to the truth about BSE, conditions in factory farms to the causes of food poisoning and antibiotic resistance. It also reveals that:

- more than five million people suffer from food poisoning each year, most of it caused by animal products. Half of all chickens on sale are contaminated by the food poisoning bug campylobacter;
- use of antibiotics on farms has promoted the spread of antibiotic resistant 'superbugs'. Animals are routinely drugged to attempt to control diseases like pneumonia, parasites, dysentery, meningitis and salmonella;
- the Government body responsible for abattoirs officially failed to meet its target for enforcing meat hygiene rules last year;
- BSE is now found in 24 countries and is suspected to exist in many more;
- a human epidemic of bird flu could kill tens of millions.


The report has been sent to the Government, MPs and health and environmental groups.

Viva! campaigner, Alistair Currie, says: "Turkeys are a classic example of what modern farming does to animals and what it does to us. These creatures have been bred to be so grossly obese that they stagger around suffering from severe lameness and heart failure - they can't even mate naturally. They are crammed into factory farms where filthy conditions and overcrowding lead to the spread of infectious diseases; slaughtered in inadequately regulated abattoirs; processed by producers with an eye on a fast buck and then sold to us as healthy and wholesome.

"Beneath the glossy packaging, meat can be dirty, dangerous stuff and if people knew the truth about farms, slaughterhouses and processing plants, they certainly wouldn't be feeding it to their families. Disease and infection are endemic in farming - things like BSE and foot-and-mouth are just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, farmers and supermarkets cloak the truth with phoney 'quality assurance' schemes which aren't worth the paper they're written on and Government has consistently failed to act. Dishing the Dirt gives consumers the information they've been lacking - information that's vital in helping them to protect their families' health."

The full report can be read here


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