Meat: Not Suitable for Children II

Meat: Not Suitable for ChildrenBacterial Contamination
While the hormones and antibiotics in meat can slowly poison your children, the bacteria that are found in animal products can strike quickly and unexpectedly. At best, they will make your children sick—at worst, they can kill them. If you’re giving animal flesh to your children, you’re exposing them to pathogens like E. coli, listeria, and campylobacter. Recalls of meat and stories of children who have died after eating contaminated flesh are now commonplace. Almost all the meat from the 10 billion cows, pigs, and birds who are butchered in this country every year is contaminated with fecal bacteria. Our children are especially vulnerable to bacterial infections from meat because their immune systems often aren’t strong enough to muster a defense.

When children do fall prey to the bacteria in meat, doctors usually try to fight the illness with antibiotics. But, since animals on factory farms are so overmedicated, many common bacterial pathogens are now resistant to antibiotic treatment. Thus, if you give your children meat and they then become infected with one of these resistant bacterial strains, doctors may be unable to help them.

The Spread of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria
Our intestinal tracts are home to healthy bacteria that help us to digest our food, but eating meat that is tainted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria can cause our own “good” bacteria to turn against us. Scientists at Birmingham Medical School found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria from contaminated meat can cause the normal bacteria in our intestines to mutate into harmful strains that can survive in our guts and cause illness many years later.

What the Government Doesn’t Tell You
Meat recalls are voluntary, and the meat industry is vastly underregulated, so you can’t count on the government to watch out for the safety of your children. An investigation conducted by the Philadelphia Inquirerfound, “The United States’ flawed meat-inspection system, which relies heavily on self-policing by the industry, discourages aggressive enforcement by government inspectors and often fails to protect consumers until it is too late.”

There have been countless cases of grieving parents whose children died from eating contaminated meat and who then found themselves pitted against an industry that cares more about profits than it does about consumer safety. Suzanne Kiner, whose 9-year-old daughter endured three strokes, 10,000 seizures, and a 189-day hospital stay after she ate a hamburger contaminated withE. coli, says, “You just want to tell the meat producers and the Department of Agriculture to shape up. The industry needs to make wiser decisions—not ones solely based on chasing the corporate dollar.”

The government and the meat industry can’t be trusted to protect our families—it’s up to us to protect them from contaminated meat by keeping it off their plates.

Industrial-Strength Toxins
You would never feed your child a meal laced with mercury, PCBs, lead, arsenic, pesticides, or industrial-strength fire retardants. But, if you’re serving tuna, salmon, or fish sticks to your family, you’re dishing up all these toxins and more. The government has already issued advisories that warn parents about the danger that fish flesh poses to children.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 600,000 of the children who were born in 2000 are at risk for developing learning difficulties because their pregnant or nursing mothers became exposed to mercury when they ate fish. Fish flesh is a veritable toxic waste dump, and feeding fish to children is both irresponsible and dangerous.

Today, 9 million American children over the age of 6 are overweight, and two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. We all know that excess weight takes a toll on our physical health, but overweight children also face the psychological trauma of being teased and excluded by their peers. The physical burden and emotional stress of being the “fat kid” can have devastating effects on your child’s well-being.

Fortunately, feeding our children a balanced vegetarian diet will keep them feeling and looking their best.

Brain Health
Research shows that meat consumption may also adversely affect children’s mental abilities in both the short and the long term and indicates that a meat-free diet can give children an academic edge in their grade school years. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that while American children have an average I.Q. of 99, the average I.Q. ofvegetarian American children is 116.

A meat-based diet can also lead to serious “brain wasting” diseases later in life—research has shown that consuming animal fat doubles our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Antonia Demas, a world-renowned researcher and president of the Food Studies Institute, is a long-time advocate of a meat-free diet for children. Dr. Demas’ “Food Is Elementary” nutritional program now provides healthy, plant-based foods to kids in 60 schools in 12 states. One school district in Florida that implemented the program was astounded by the positive changes it saw when the students at Bay Point School eliminated meat from their diets.

According to an article published in The Miami Herald, some students experienced substantial increases in their grades after they went vegetarian—one former carnivore saw his G.P.A. leap from a 1.6 to a 3.4! Speaking about his new meat-free diet, one student says, “I’d look at a rib, and I’d look at a vegetable, and I’d think, ‘Why is my mind picking the vegetable?’” Another student at the school noted that his vegetarian diet gave him the energy to wake up earlier, adding, “I never knew chickens and cows had so many hormones. Now, everything I eat is natural.”

Mary Louise Cole, the founder of this public school for troubled youth, agrees that vegetarian diets have increased the physical and mental stamina of students at her school. She says, “They seem to have a lot more energy—they don’t have the down times.” The students also saw dramatic improvements in their athletic performances after they cut meat out of their diets. Gabriel Saintvil, a senior at the school, says that the improvement in his athletic ability has been astonishing. “I used to get tired when I ran laps or lifted weights. Now I get endurance and keep on doing it.” Several students even spoke about the positive impacts of their new meat-free diets at the school’s graduation ceremony.

Dr. Demas’ nutritional program demonstrates what vegetarian parents have long known—kids speed to the head of the class when they eliminate meat from their diets.

Other Common Diseases
Feeding meat to your children puts them at risk of being exposed to toxins, of being obese, and of developing decreased brain function. But the risks don’t stop there. Children who eat meat also have a greater chance of succumbing to killers like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes than do vegetarian children.

Heart Disease
Researchers have found hardened arteries, which lead to heart disease, in children as young as 7 years old. This condition is the result of consuming the saturated fat that is found in meat and dairy products. A vegan diet has been shown to reverse this damage.

Animal flesh contains several major carcinogens, including saturated fat, excess protein, hormones, dioxins, arsenic, and other chemicals. Plant foods, on the other hand, are packed with vitamins, phytochemicals, and fiber, all of which have been shown to prevent cancer. Researchers found that vegetarians are between 25 and 50 percent less likely to suffer from cancer.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 32 percent of the boys and 38 percent of the girls who were born in 2000 will develop diabetes during their lifetimes. A major cause of this epidemic is the dramatic increase in the rate of childhood obesity, a condition that is linked to meat consumption.

Read More : Meat: Not Suitable for Children (Part I)

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