Last week, consumer advocacy groups Organic Consumers Association, Friends of the Earth, and the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the third largest poultry producer in the US, Sanderson Farms, in San Francisco, CA. The suit followed 69 separate investigations conducted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of Sanderson Farms’ (with locations spanning several states) between November 2015 and November 2016. The FSIS investigations found 49 instances where the inspected birds—whom Sanderson Farms markets as “100 percent natural”—contained illegal residues of prohibited antibiotics, opioids, and several narcotic substances such as butorphanol. The investigations also found 82 instances of “unconfirmed residues” including that of sedative ketamine (known as party drug “Special K”)—the presence of which media outlet Grub Street writer Clint Rainey opines “probably operates as some sort of sedative before slaughter.” The presence of these substances is not only shocking, but dangerous to consumer health. In January, scientists at England’s University of Exeter issued a warning that current practices in animal agriculture, particularly in chicken farming can lead to widespread antibiotic resistance in humans.
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