News Index > Apr-Aug 2006 > Aug 2006
Meat sprinkled with viruses? Yummm.

It's come to this. In mid-August, the Food and Drug Administration approved the spraying of live viruses onto poultry and meat products. The virus spray, manufactured by a Baltimore company called Intralytix, contains six different viral strains designed to kill listeria, a germ that sickens an estimated 2,500 Americans yearly. Meat companies do not have to inform consumers which products have been treated and which have not.

As a doctor, I would like to call for a reality check.

Decades ago, we learned that the fat and cholesterol in meat boost the amount of cholesterol in consumers' blood. And that leads to heart attacks. So doctors advised us to cut back on meat and get to know vegetables.

Then it was carcinogens. As meat is grilled, cancer-causing chemicals called heterocyclic amines form on its surface, suggesting an explanation for the higher cancer rates in meat-eaters, compared with vegetarians. Chicken turned out to produce much higher levels of carcinogens than beef.
And now, to kill some of the germs that come from an animal's intestinal tract and land on a piece of meat containing saturated fat and cholesterol, we need to spray the meat with viruses.

It's time to wake up and smell the problem. Millions of Americans now say no to meat. As they do so, their cholesterol levels plummet. Their coronary arteries open up again. Their waistlines shrink, and their cancer rates drop 40 percent. A healthy vegetarian diet could revolutionize the health of the nation.

Neal D. Barnard is a nutrition researcher and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This piece was distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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