In their continuing campaign against animal protein and modern agriculture, the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health has published findings that, in my opinion as a microbiologist and veterinarian, defy logic and sound science.
Their studies examined "chicken feather meal," not meat, and claim from an extremely small sample size to have found trace amounts, in some cases a fraction of one part per billion, of caffeine, arsenic, banned antibiotics and ingredients found in Benadryl, Prozac and Tylenol. (To place one part per billion in perspective, this quantity is equivalent to 1.7 inches in relation to the circumference of the Earth.)
The substances claimed to have been found are not fed to chickens in the United States. Nor are they present in the chicken you eat.
A scientific review of these studies raises several areas of concern, the most serious of which relates to the source of the 12 samples tested. As a scientist, it's hard to imagine that a "peer reviewed" journal would ever accept a paper that did not give specifics about where samples originated, down to manufacturer and location.
Since these pharmaceuticals are not fed to chickens but are used extensively in human medicine, the only logical source for the presence of the residues is cross contamination of the feather meal with some human source of these drugs. To pass peer review, the researchers should have eliminated sources of contamination; for example, surface water used by facilities rendering the feather meal.
Modern testing methodologies are extremely sensitive and can detect trace amounts of anything. And the results can be intentionally used to mislead and scare people.
Despite the breadth and intensity of academic talent at the Bloomberg School, these findings lack intellectual integrity and provide scope for misinterpretation by media, especially when accompanied by university press releases and video interviews.
Charles L. Hofacre, Athens, Ga.
The writer is professor and director of clinical services at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.