The Times Kristof cultures another chemophobic theory on European E. coli outbreak

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Speaking of organic sprouts, in his Sunday column for The New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof offers a strange alternative theory of how the E. coli outbreak occurred. In a somewhat bizarre interpretation of the facts, he concludes that overuse of animal antibiotics was one cause:

Big Ag counters that there’s no evidence that agricultural use of antibiotics is the problem, as opposed to hospital overuse — and that there’s also no connection between agricultural overuse and the latest food poisoning outbreak in Europe ...

[But there’s some evidence] that agricultural antibiotics can lead to movement in the gene that produces shiga toxin — which was so deadly in Europe. The evidence is mixed and poorly understood, but it seems to happen at least in a lab setting.

Europe, South Korea and other countries are moving ahead, but Big Ag blocks such steps in the U.S. And while we can disagree about where the tradeoffs should come — because the result will be higher food prices in the store — a starting point would be to ban the feeding of antibiotics to health livestock. Your thoughts?


“My thoughts are that you should stick with reporting on the fate of the impoverished and abused in the third world, Mr. Kristof,” ACSH' Dr. Gilbert Ross retorts. “As soon as you try to discuss chemicals and microbiology, your columns become contaminated with pseudoscience and unnecessary fearmongering.”

ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom agrees, “It would be hard to stuff more misinformation into such a small space. The E. coli outbreak is due to tetracycline drugs fed to cattle? Please. If that were the case, we’d be having these outbreaks all the time, all over the world. The cause of the problem is so obvious: organic farming, which has been the culprit in many other food poisoning incidences.”