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Virus In Our Food SupplyThere seems to be a lot of additives in our food supply these days. Our chickens are fed antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones are fed to our beef. Both meats are treated with radiation during food processing. Aspartame in your diet drink that robs you of your ability to learn. How many of you have even heard of the viral promoter gene used in GMO foods (genetically modified organisms)? But let's set that aside for now. The latest food additive will get your attention, it's a virus.
Now, for the first time, the FDA has approved live viruses to be added to our food supply, calling these viruses a food additive.
BackgroundAbout 100 years ago in Paris, a type of virus was discovered that eats bacteria. They called it bacteriophages (Greek for "bacteria eater") or phages for short.
These phages are commonly found in our food, water, environment, and even our digestive tracts. The Doctors in Paris thought they had discovered the key to controlling bacteria. But, when antibiotics were discovered the research into phages was almost abandoned, but not quite. In the Soviet Union, the research continued and institutes were set up to develop therapies using these bacteria eating virus.
TodayToday we have a growing medical problem with the appearance of antibiotic resistant germs. Some Western researchers are revisiting phages (the germ eating viruses) as an alternative or supplement to conventional bacteria-fighting therapies. One business that is making use of this research is a company called Intralytix, Inc. based in Baltimore, MD, USA.
IntralytixIntralytix, Inc. is a development stage biotechnology company focused on the production and marketing of products using phages to control bacterial pathogens in environmental, food processing, and medical settings.
The Intralytix goal is to produce viral products for the treatment of disease, in this case to treat a rare bacterium known as Listeria monocytogenes. This is a type of food poisoning that affects about 2,500 people a year. The bacteria is killed by cooking but it poses a problem in meats that are cooked during processing but not cooked again prior to eating such as deli meats, lunch meats and hotdogs.
Intralytix tested Listeria-eating virus or phages on more than 300 different strains of Listeria. The idea was to bioengineer the virus into accepting the germs as a food source. They found no single virus that would kill all strains of Listeria so they put together a viral cocktail composed of six different strains of viruses. On Friday, August 18, 2006, the FDA approved that viral cocktail for use on our food supply.
When this viral cocktail of six viruses is sprayed on food, the virus attaches to the bacteria like a mosquito and injects its DNA. Once inside the germ, the virus DNA starts multiplying using the germ for food. The germ responds by producing poisons called "endotoxins" to defend itself. These "endotoxins" are a lot like the antibodies that our immune system produces to protect us. More and more endotoxins are produced inside the germ as the virus multiplies until the germ simply bursts. When the bacteria burst, these endotoxins are released. These poisons along with the victorious live viruses will soon be on the food in your local grocery store.
Fast Track FDA ApprovalThe FDA spent four years evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the "cocktail" of several phages at the request of this biotechnology company, Intralytix Inc. In presenting its petition, Intralytix referred to more than 20 studies documenting the power of viruses to fight infection, many of them performed in Russian and Eastern Bloc countries.
Intralytix also conducted studies of its own, trying out its phage mixture on more than 10 different kinds of deli meats, including sliced turkey, roast beef, bologna, chicken and even raw hot dogs, and found that it killed all strains of Listeria. Other tests conducted on animals showed no abnormal changes or motality in rats (5 day test).
Questions that need answersIntralytix and the FDA are assuring us that these viruses will only attack the specified bacteria they are intended to kill and will be harmless to humans. What happens if the virus begins to recognize normal bacterial cells in the human digestive tract and adapts these friendly bacteria as a food source?
Once it's on the market, will the FDA monitor the quality of this product or will it be treated like Ambien, Propecia, and Ultram, where the FDA seems to have failed us?
What about the risk to humans from excessive amounts of endotoxin, the toxins released when the bacteria burst? Our immune system is highly reactive to these bacterial endotoxins. Such toxins can elevate your cholesterol level, provoke an asthma attack, or set off your allergies. Research has demonstrated that the presence of bacterial endotoxins can also cause colon cancer.
And what about our immune system? Will it react directly to phages? What happens to a person who eats a lot of processed deli meat sprayed with this viral cocktail? There is certain to be an immune reaction to the viruses but what will that reaction be?
What happens when these phages mutate, as all viruses do? Will these designer viruses find a way to eat bacteria that we need for digestion? Or will they turn some other innocuous bacteria into a killer, which is how cholera occurs.
What happens to the bacteria that the virus is attacking? Will they develop a resistance to the viruses over time, as we have seen with the overuse of antibiotics?
What about unintended viral recombination? Viruses are known to mutate and recombine into new forms. What happens when a person with stomach flu eats food containing this viral food additive? When the genetic material of the flu virus interacts with the genetic material of the phages, will that create a new type of viral infection?
Remember that 70% of the packaged food on grocery shelves already contains GMO adulterated food and the FDA won't tell us which foods contain these genetically modified organisms (GMO). These foods have viral promoter genes in the DNA of every cell. What happens when the phages interact with the viral promoter genes in GMO food?
For the sake of a small minority (about 2,500 people) who are made seriously ill by Listeria each year, the FDA is allowing this viral cocktail to be added to everyone's food supply. It would make a lot more sense if the FDA would warn the 2,500 people eating these foods that it might be dangerous. Why expose millions of Americans to these live viruses for the benefit of so few?
How safe are these phages to consume on a regular basis?
What is the cumulative effect of this viral cocktail over the course of a lifetime?
Food Safety ConcernsA spokesman for the Office of Food Additive Safety at the FDA says that "consumers will not be aware which meat and poultry products have been treated with the spray." Foods bought at deli counters or prepared in restaurants will not need to warn consumers. People eating at delis and restaurants will have no idea they are eating live viruses as part of their meal.
This FDA ruling opens the door for Intralytix and other biotech companies to expand their reach. Intralytix is also seeking FDA approval for viral sprays to treat foods that could be contaminated with other bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. If approved, similar viruses could end up in a majority of our food supply.
Intralytix has already licensed their new FDA-approved viral spray to a multi-national company for use around the world. When the CEO of Intralytix, John Vazzara, was recently asked about this partner company, he refused to disclose their name. Why do you think he refused?
Summary of Food Safety IssuesHere is a short list of consumer safety concerns about putting live viruses in our food.
NotesIn 1998 it was discovered that ingested viruses survive passage through stomach acid to live on in the digestive system.
Fragments of DNA from viral promoters (GMO or GM foods) have been found in cells of new born babies.
Virus resistant Papaya, potato and squash have been released for commercial production but little effort has been made to track such releases for the appearance of novel viruses.
Viral promoter genes can awaken dormant viruses in humans or farm animals via horizontal gene transfer.
An existing virus can mutate into dangerous new forms with exposure to the viral promoter genes already in our food.
Comments and feedbackThis is a first step along the path to having hundreds of viral food additives in the food we eat, all designed to combat possible infections coming from our food. It looks like we will soon find out if we will inadvertently create deadly new super-strains of bacteria and/or parasitically infect the human digestive tract with new infections.
We can only hope that cooking will kill this so-called "helpful" virus.
If this bothers you enough, you might want to write to your elected officials.
You can find them here. (Put in your zip code)
Subj: Need a greenhouse
With all of this said...where can I find greenhouses to buy and set up in my back yard! I cannot fathom all of this, too overwhelming. We grow a garden in summer, but I would like to eat all of my own foods year round now. I would also advise people to buy home grown beef, chicken and pork, if they still choose to eat meat!
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Last post December 12, 2012
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This consumer advocate website is protected by copyright © 2002-2007 Askdocweb, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This is a layman's report on food viruses and is not intended to replace discussions with a health care provider. Do not use the information on this forum as a substitute for your doctor's advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any drug and follow your doctor's directions. Source material: Food and Drug Administration, Medline, Physician's Desk Reference, and the largest community of people in the world, those who are concerned about side effects and healthcare.