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Czech Republic

Like we noted last week, not everyone was impressed by the conclusions of the French study linking tumors in rats to GMOs. Russians, on the other hand, were so alarmed they announced this week that they will no longer import Monsanto corn. But in terms of recent distressing food news, GMO corn might be the least of our problems.

Besides GMOs, livestock antibiotics and methanol-laced Eastern European booze are public health threats, and the measures being taken to protect consumers are less than comforting. Read what’s going on below:

The threat of livestock antibiotics
By now most of us have heard this statistic: approximately 80% of the antibiotics in America are fed to livestock, not humans. But how about this one? Over 2 million people a year get sick from infections in the hospital many of these infections are resistant to antibiotics.

The fear, when put simply, is that farmers are giving livestock antibiotics too frequently — sometimes as a preventive measure, rather than when the animals are sick. Farmers maintain that the antibiotic use is necessary in order to prevent the spread of disease among their animals, but the overuse of antibiotics — despite the reason — can lead to superbugs like MRSA, a potentially fatal staph infection.

Members of Congress such as Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) have been trying to garner support for Slaughter’s bill PAMTA (the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment), but movement has been slow. In the meantime, the FDA announced a new internal task force this week that will focus on developing new antibiotics to combat the older drugs that are losing their effectiveness.

According to Food Safety News, Slaughter applauded the move, but remained critical. Slaughter commented, “By failing to address the root cause of antibiotic resistance, the FDA is ensuring that any innovation will be short-lived in the face of an evolving threat to public health.”

The FDA has supported voluntary regulations to curb antibiotic use among farmers, but that move has done little to satisfy consumers and advocates concerned about superbugs.

Deadly Czech booze
While antibiotic-resistant drugs are slowly emerging as a public health threat in the U.S., the Czech Republic’s recent run-in with methanol-laced booze had immediate and devastating effects both on human life and the country’s export business. Twenty-five people are dead after drinking bootleg alcohol that had a 40% ABV and contained methanol that was originally meant to be used as an ingredient in window wiper fluid. When the outbreak first started, the Czech Republic banned all liquor sales, no easy task in a country where many adults consume alcohol, and where there’s a solid community of underground moonshiners.

The two men behind the deadly spirits (and their dozens of accomplices) have since been caught, and the Czech Republic has begun to relax its ban on liquor sales, despite the fact that officials are still searching for 15,000 liters of the tainted booze. Bars and stores that have liquor made after January will have to certify or destroy their stock, causing them huge losses. Meanwhile, those drinkers unconcerned about missing methanol in their cocktails are free to hit the bars again.