Caution: Put down your fork before reading this post.

In a recent op-ed published in the Baltimore Sun, colleagues at Johns Hopkins University put in perspective the recent revelations about contaminated animal feed imported from China. 

…we should be at least as concerned about the “business as usual” ingredients that are routinely fed to the animals we eat…[which are] produced within an industrial system reliant on feeds that include…chicken manure, factory wastes, plastics, and cyanuric acid—all deemed acceptable ingredients in feed for animals that end up on our dinner tables.

As the authors, Robert S. Lawrence and Roni Neff,* point out China is far from alone in allowing waste materials into animal feed.  They refer us to articles recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) on contaminants in animal feed, including such delicacies (not!) as animal feces, fats that may contain dioxin and PCBs, plastics, roach excreta, and more (See EHP (Feb. 2007) for Thorne on CAFOs**; Sapkota et al on water sources near CAFOs; Sapkota et al on ingredients in animal feed.)

Lawrence and Neff challenge the public health community to become more involved in these issues, urging that

Government responsibility for food safety and environmental protection must include questioning the overall menu of permissible items in animal feed.  After all, when animals eat garbage, so do we.

Anyone else lose their appetite?

**CAFO: concentrated animal feeding operation (Photo, photo, photo)

*Some Confined Space@TPH readers may know Roni Neff, PhD from her research on workers safety and health, and contributions to the OHS Section of the American Public Health Association.  Both of the op-ed’s authors are with the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future.