Viral Meat Spray

Viral Meat Spray
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Bacteria-eating viruses (bacteriophages) have been approved as meat additives to reduce the risk of Listeria and Campylobacter found in processed meat and poultry products, but there’s a concern they could spread toxin genes between bacteria.

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The third leading cause of foodborne disease-related death in the United States—after Salmonella, and the meat-borne brain parasite Toxoplasma, is Listeria, a type of foodborne bacteria that has the rare ability to survive and thrive in a cold, acidic, salty environment—otherwise known as deli meats, hot dogs, and refrigerated, ready-to-eat chicken and turkey products. The fatality rate of infection is 20 to 30%, making it the most dangerous foodborne bacteria in the American meat supply.

Unable to rid itself of the bug, the U.S. meat industry petitioned the FDA to allow them to use a novel pathogen control strategy. “Virulent Bacteriophage for Efficient Biocontrol of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-To-Eat Foods”—or, as the FDA touted in one of its publications, “Bacteria-eating virus approved as food additive. Not all viruses harm people. The [FDA] has approved a mixture of viruses as a food additive to protect people. The additive can be used in processing plants for spraying onto ready-to-eat meat and poultry products to protect consumers from the potentially life-threatening bacterium Listeria...”

Not all bacteria harm people either, and so concern has been expressed that the virus on our meat could also infect and kill the good bacteria in our gut. But they appear to be extremely species-specific, and so the main concern has been the possibility of the viruses spreading toxin genes between bacteria, especially considering the difficulties of preventing large numbers of viruses from being released into the environment.

It could also allow the industry to become even more complacent about food safety. If they know they can just spray some viruses on at the end—kind of similar to the quick fix argument about irradiation. From the industry point of view, who cares if there’s fecal contamination of the meat, as long as it’s sterilized feces; you know, sterilized at the end, with enough radiation?

Recently, researchers discovered that you can feed the viruses to the chickens directly; put viruses right in the feed, and obtain the same effect. They conclude that “The phage cocktail administered in feed…can be easily and successfully used under commercial condition in a poultry unit. Another important aspect of the present study is that as the phages that composed the cocktail were isolated from poultry carcasses, their use to reduce [bacterial] colonization in the live birds would not introduce any new biological entity into the food chain.”

Meaning, consumers shouldn’t complain about the use of viruses as a biological control agent, since the viruses are on the meat to begin with.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

The third leading cause of foodborne disease-related death in the United States—after Salmonella, and the meat-borne brain parasite Toxoplasma, is Listeria, a type of foodborne bacteria that has the rare ability to survive and thrive in a cold, acidic, salty environment—otherwise known as deli meats, hot dogs, and refrigerated, ready-to-eat chicken and turkey products. The fatality rate of infection is 20 to 30%, making it the most dangerous foodborne bacteria in the American meat supply.

Unable to rid itself of the bug, the U.S. meat industry petitioned the FDA to allow them to use a novel pathogen control strategy. “Virulent Bacteriophage for Efficient Biocontrol of Listeria monocytogenes in Ready-To-Eat Foods”—or, as the FDA touted in one of its publications, “Bacteria-eating virus approved as food additive. Not all viruses harm people. The [FDA] has approved a mixture of viruses as a food additive to protect people. The additive can be used in processing plants for spraying onto ready-to-eat meat and poultry products to protect consumers from the potentially life-threatening bacterium Listeria...”

Not all bacteria harm people either, and so concern has been expressed that the virus on our meat could also infect and kill the good bacteria in our gut. But they appear to be extremely species-specific, and so the main concern has been the possibility of the viruses spreading toxin genes between bacteria, especially considering the difficulties of preventing large numbers of viruses from being released into the environment.

It could also allow the industry to become even more complacent about food safety. If they know they can just spray some viruses on at the end—kind of similar to the quick fix argument about irradiation. From the industry point of view, who cares if there’s fecal contamination of the meat, as long as it’s sterilized feces; you know, sterilized at the end, with enough radiation?

Recently, researchers discovered that you can feed the viruses to the chickens directly; put viruses right in the feed, and obtain the same effect. They conclude that “The phage cocktail administered in feed…can be easily and successfully used under commercial condition in a poultry unit. Another important aspect of the present study is that as the phages that composed the cocktail were isolated from poultry carcasses, their use to reduce [bacterial] colonization in the live birds would not introduce any new biological entity into the food chain.”

Meaning, consumers shouldn’t complain about the use of viruses as a biological control agent, since the viruses are on the meat to begin with.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Nota del Doctor

For more about the first and second leading food poisoning causes of death, see Total Recall and Brain Parasites in Meat. For other risks associated with processed meat consumption, see Preventing COPD With DietPrevention Is Better Than Cured Meat; and Hot Dogs & Leukemia. In my book, Bird Flu, I have a chapter about more of these creative meat industry “technofixes”—rectal poultry superglue, anyone? For more on other chicken feed additives of questionable safety, see Arsenic in Chicken and Drug Residues in Meat. And for what Campylobacter can do, see Poultry and Paralysis. If you don’t like the thought of the meat industry spreading viruses on your food, check out Maggot Meat Spray.

Also be sure to check out my associated blog posts: Why is it Legal to Sell Unsafe Meat?Adding FDA-Approved Viruses to Meat; and Why Is Selling Salmonella-Tainted Chicken Legal?

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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