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Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production

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Public Health

New public health concerns surrounding farm animals include foodborne diseases caused by bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella, and have a major impact in the United States. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) estimates 5,000 deaths and 76 million cases of food borne illness annually. The FDA reports that bacterial food borne disease is a growing problem worldwide and has been addressed in many reviews and reports on the topic.  Other pathogens that are of grave concern include avian influenza and mad cow disease.

There are also public health concerns surrounding animal hormones. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says there is a potential for natural and synthetic steroid hormones (e.g. estrogens, androgens, progestins) found in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) waste to reach groundwater aquifers and surface waters through a multitude of pathways (e.g. surface runoff, leaching from holding tanks and lagoons and composting facilities). Scientists say the occurrence of hormonally-active agents in surface water is of increasing concern worldwide, and has led to a growing awareness that human and wildlife health might be negatively impacted by hormones in the environment.

These and other public health concerns may stem from industrial animal production systems, which with some producers include the use of antibiotics as growth promoters. The FDA says the emergence of antimicrobial resistant and multi-drug resistant bacteria are evident in both humans and animals.

handling chickens

Links and Resources

Iowa Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Air Quality Study (University of Iowa) read morelearn more   

CAFOs Environmental Hazards & Health Effects (CDC) learn moreLearn More

Photographs Courtesy of USDA
Copyright © 2006 The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. All rights reserved.
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health