Safer Antibiotics and Safer Food

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Preserving Health And Well Being, Naturally

I recently saw yet another article protesting the need to raise food crops organically. Really? Really?? Anybody who doubts the validity of the organic food movement is not paying attention to the daily news. Like what? Hmm, let’s see. How about this? American chicken farmers (or might we better say producers?) are lobbying hard for the legal right to ship chickens from America to China for processing before shipping them back home for consumers.

Why? American food safety precautions are too burdensome and expensive for poor underpaid big-scale farmers. So…after the recall of American company, Foster Farms’s salmonella-tainted chicken in March of this year, we are happily gearing up to send chicken to China, where, oh, yeah, a huge scandal broke in July of this same year because of contaminated processed meat supplied to thousands of outlets…. Wait, really? Really. I am not making this up. Sadly.

Deadly And Stupidly Irresponsible Tactics

An estimated 23,000 people die each year because bacterial infections prove resistant to over-used antibiotics. Attention is finally being directed Sadly, the bulk of antibiotic use (and overuse) is agricultural, not in homes and hospitals. Government estimates indicate that more than 70% of antibiotics are given to farmed animals, mainly chickens, cows, and pigs. Much of this antibiotic use is prophylactic, intended to keep animals healthy enough to be marketable despite stressful and skirting-the-law unsanitary conditions. Ack!!!

On September 18, the Obama administration finally unveiled its plan to do something constructive about the increasing risks of antibiotic resistance. There are some good guidelines here for reducing at least some of the public health and ecological risks, but amazingly, amending the irresponsible and culpably reckless factory farm antibiotic abuses, which account for the most public health issues, are not included in the government’s plan. Those 23,000 annual deaths must not count because the people who paid the penalty for antibiotic abuse are no longer able to speak for themselves.

Here’s a link to the new national strategy:

Too Much Is Too Much

However, we still have to do our part at home and at work to reduce antibiotic overuse. People like me who wash hands many, many times a day can be contributing more to the problem than we realize if we use antibiotic hand soaps. A squirt here, a squirt there, it all adds up to a lot of free-range antibiotics set loose to roam our waterways.

It’s ironic that one of the miracles of our age can protect us from diseases that were fatal for millennia and also threaten our health and well being in the all-too-close future. For millions of years, dirty hands could be deadly. Sir Joseph Lister’s groundbreaking sterile surgery protocols started saving lives back in the 1880s, but enough is better than too much. As harmful bacteria gain resistance to antiseptics, diseases like pneumonia are once again becoming fatal. In addition, recent research suggests that children raised in excessively clean environments lack the health protections that exposure to beneficial bacteria offer our immune systems. Unusually high rates of allergies and asthma can be another result of hyper-clean homes. (Luckily that’s not a problem at MY house….)

Wash With Safe, Simple Soaps

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer doesn’t promote resistant bacteria, but it also doesn’t kill a number of important baddies. In fact, it doesn’t even remove dirt, and Triclosan, a key ingredient, is under FDA review as a suspected hormone disrupter. Instead, sanitation experts recommend a 20-second scrub with plain soap and hot water, lathering up for about the time it takes to sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” or recite the ABCs. Turns out that though dirty hands are still hazardous to human health, clean enough (NOT sterile) hands are just fine for most things (short of surgery, of course).

For preference, use a simple castile soap such as Dr. Bronner’s liquid baby soap, which scores a mere 1 on the Environmental Working Group’s potential dangers scale. Rather than aiming to eradicate all bacteria, we might remember that our bodies hold many times more bacteria than human cells. Nearly all bacteria are harmless or beneficial, and wiping them out indiscriminately is a very bad idea. Indeed, bacteria are our very good friends; beneficial bacteria aid in food digestion, help our immune systems to develop appropriate responses, and reduce inflammatory processes.

Safe, Simple Shampoo

My favorite homemade shampoo combines luxuriant lathering with gently cleansing. It won’t get your hair “squeaky clean” because it doesn’t strip away natural oils, but your hair will dry silky soft.

1 cup organic castile liquid soap
1 tablespoon organic cider vinegar
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
1/3 cup water

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake gently before use, then work a tablespoon of shampoo into wet hair while massaging scalp, then rinse thoroughly. Gently towel dry hair.

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2 Responses to Safer Antibiotics and Safer Food

  1. John says:

    I grew up around dairy farms in the 60’s and 70’s. We milked cows, shoveled lots of manure, there was dirt and flies and all the chores of farm life. We washed our hands with plain soap, ivory or other brands. No antibacterial soaps, accept for milking equipment . There were no outbreaks, no diseases passed, once in awhile a cold or sniffle. Our society has becomed so weakened by our overly clean lifestyles. Let’s let some good bacteria back in our lives. Let the kids eat a little dirt now and then. Of course as long as the dirt hasn’t been drenched with pesticide and herbicide .

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