CSE dead right on chicken, I dread that right!


Shantanu Datta | July 31, 2014

Disclaimer: This writer knows as much about medicines or medical science – or, heck, science itself – as his two-year-old daughter. Knowledge of both characters could be summed up in a sentence: all tablets that are to be swallowed are bad, sweet syrupy medicines are good, and homoeopathic doses are uber-brilliant.

So there I was, reading about chickens and antibiotics. Now, I do not know much about chicken and I will chicken out of the hall the moment you sputter out the ‘s’  in antibiotics – or probiotics, for that matter – but I do love eating the former once in a while. As for the latter, I do have to eat them once in a while, like all sensible souls.

And what do I read? Boy, it’s meant to scare the excreta out of you: Indians are not responding well enough to antibiotics. And, pray, why? One of the reasons, the newspapers tell me, is due to chicken. You read me right, just as I had read it right this morning: chicken.

I, of course, have never known a chicken to be overtly anti-antibiotics before eating it but I am told it’s all due to the bad guys in the poultry business. These bad souls, according to a Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) laboratory-test report quoted in the news report (read one in the Hindu here), are responsible for large-scale unregulated use of antibiotics in the poultry industry. That, the report says, could be one factor contributing to Indians’ increased resistance to antibiotics and falling prey to a host of otherwise curable ailments.

The CSE being the holy cow in the business of science, I decided to look elsewhere. Staying without chicken (the joke among Bengalis, anyway, is that poultry chicken tastes as good as aloo, and murg biryani is equal to vegetable biryani; hence proved!) should not be that difficult but that would increase my red meat intake. That, I am told by other studies, is not good. And the CSE must have had a report on it.

So, I decided to do what most lazy Indians do: I googled. “CSE report on” – I was about to write “red meat” when the autocomplete threw up the suggestions “CSE report on honey”, “CSE report on junk food”, “CSE report on road safety”, “CSE report on trans fat”. Forget red meat (just saying, for I heart red meat, despite knowing what it can do to my heart and coronary passageways), how can honey possibly be bad, unless it’s bad honey, honey?

A lot, I learnt. “Branded honey sold in India is likely to be contaminated with harmful antibiotics, according to a new study by the Centre for Science and Environment,” that’s how a September 2010 report in the Hindu opens. Okay, tough luck, all you ginger-honey tea fans.

Trans fat and junk food, of course, were no-go areas for me. Forget experts and scientists, even I would ask you to avoid both – unless when necessary, if you ask me, please.

Emboldened, I opened the windows (nope, this isn’t Microsoft-sponsored, though any advertisement on this website is welcome) and googled “CSE report on water”. “CSE study shows Gurgaon water contaminated with impurities”, a Mail Today report (among many others) from April 2012 stared at me. There were also reports on soft drink and pesticides, and how groundwater contamination is taking the fizz out of your cola, thank you.

So, do the vegetarians have it all rosy? With a bit of vengeance, I googled “CSE report on vegetables”. “Are the vegetables you eat laced with pesticide?” asked a piece from February this year on a website that’s not exactly meant for the likes of me – thehealthsite.com.

Muttering expletives, I finally tapped “CSE report on alcohol”. Well, didn’t come across a CSE report. So, I presume, it’s safe to drink the drink – with or without your antibiotics, sorry chicken tangri. Cheers!



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