AS BIOHAZARD LAB
mentioned the CDC [US Centers for Disease Prevention & Control].
There's two things regarding the CDC that intrigued
me from reading your book. First, you point out that
the CDC recommendations on how we handle meat in
the kitchen, for those people who eat meat, "don't
touch the meat," "don't touch the packages," and
so on, are akin to teaching consumers how to operate
a "biohazard" lab. Yet, at the same time,
they [the CDC] doesn't believe that people can be
effectively "motivated to take proactive precautions
to prepare for a possible pandemic."
It's ironic, because in our recent interview with
Dr. Esselstyn, he said that this is what most cardiac professionals say
regarding their heart disease patients adopting a very low-fat vegan
diet to reverse their disease, that the patient is incapable of taking
the precautions and doing what they suggest."
G: "That really is a patronizing
attitude. In fact you're right, there is that
kind of tug on both ends with the meat industry
really trying to push the responsibility onto
the consumer, but then there's this understanding
that the consumer does not have the information,
or perhaps the motivation, to take the kinds
of steps really necessary to protect their health.
It's important to recognize that 76 million Americans
every year come down with food poisoning. That's
1 in 4. We may remember a co-worker having 24/48
hour flu, but there's no such thing as a 24 hour
flu, a 48 hour flu... that was food poisoning.
There's no such thing as the stomach flu, that's
a colloquial term that is essentially food poisoning.
And that just speaks to how really contaminated
our food supply is with these fecal passages...
these intestinal passages from animals, causing
76 million Americans to become ill every year."
are some of the proactive and defensive strategies
an individual can take?"
G: "Well, all of these bugs that we're talking
about, with the exception of mad cow disease, can be utterly destroyed
by proper cooking. The problem is that people bring animal products into
their home which are fresh or frozen (and not precooked), and therefore
by the time it's been picked up in a grocery store and by the time it
gets into an oven, and cooked to a proper temperature with a meat thermometer,
there's a number of opportunities for cross-contamination.
For example, if a family is having a raw salad with their meal, there could
be contamination of the cutting board, of the knife, utensils, sink, sponge,
with the hands... a bit of fluid can drip to the floor and a toddler pick it
up. There's a number of opportunities for the live active pathogen in that
uncooked meat coming into the kitchen to contaminate the environment before
it comes out of the oven. Bird flu is like that... not only do we have to worry
about proper cooking, but improper handling is the main reason people get infected.
76 million Americans come down with illnesses that are totally destroyed by
proper cooking. How are they getting infected? They're getting it before it's
also mention in the book that, according to the Mayo
Clinic, the "10 worst sources of contagion are
G: "The concern is not that we will get this disease
from infected birds primarily, although in those affected areas one might
want to think twice about poultry consumption. The concern is that it'll
mutate into a form easily transmissible from one person to another, thereby
triggering the next pandemic and then birds are really out of the picture.
You get it just the way you get the regular flu --- from somebody else...
an infected co-worker, children coming home from school, from causal
contacts with contaminated objects like the gas pump handle, a light
switch, or an elevator button. Anything which can potentially carry a
contagion that are on people's hands, they cough on their hands, they
twist a doorknob and then the virus can wait up to 48 hours for just
the right circumstances to infect the next person touching that handle,
and then not washing or decontaminating their hands before touching their
face, their eyes, nose, and mouth, and they've infected themselves.
During a pandemic there's nothing magical about this virus. You stay away from
people, you'll stay away from an infection. With a virus this deadly, the primary
strategy is not to get infected in the first place. Yes, if one has antivirals
like Tamiflu, it may help in the case of one getting infected, but you don't
want to get infected in the first place, and the way one does that is that
during a pandemic you self-isolate, you quarantine yourself. It's called "sheltering
in place" within one's home until the pandemic wave passes. The pandemic
may last 12 to 18 months globally, it comes in waves, and in any particular
local a wave may last weeks. That's why we're urging all Americans, right now,
to have weeks of essential supplies, food, and water stockpiled, in the event
that the Federal Government will call for a general voluntary self-quarantine
in one's home to slow down the rate of the pandemic."
WEBSITE, BOOK, WHY?
of the things that's impressed me most about your
book, and particularly your website, is that you
obviously worked very hard at creative and effective
ways at presenting information to arm people with
the knowledge they need. The website's interactive
version of your table of contents, all the book's
text, and the amazing "search by term" capabilities
couple with hyperlinked footnotes (over 3,000), are
all incredibly useful for helping "wrap one's
brain" around Avian Flu issues. A digital video
is available, and you've got "best of" blogs,
articles, and news. I was amazed at how comprehensive
the book and website are together. The level of effort
you put into this work begs the question: why? What
inspired you to put this all together?"
G: "It started from my post-graduate medical work
at Lemuel Shattuck Hospitall up in Boston. They had one of the last locked
TB [tuberculosis] wards in the nation, did some of the best AIDs work
in the country. I was struck every day by these people dying of these
infectious diseases, and I remembered growing up when there was no HIV/AIDs,
and I kept thinking to myself "where did this disease come from
in the first place?" "Why are we having such difficult treating
these people?" That's really what started me on this journey and
the whole interest in emerging infectious disease.
in light of H5N1, this flu virus was killing over half
the people it infects, I started thinking that we've
really got to prevent the emergence of these diseases
in the first place. Let's take a step back. Yes, we
can exclude Downer Cows from the food supply, but how
did they get this disease in the first place? And so
if one looks at these emerging infectious diseases,
one realizes that they don't just come out of nowhere.
SARs, seemed to come from these large animal markets.
HIV/AIDs from the bushmeat trade in Africa, mad cow
disease came from cannibalistic animal feeding practices,
and bird flu, this highly pathogenic bird flu H5N1
seems to come from this intensification of the global
poultry industry in Southeast Asia.
This goes both ways, though. Along with human culpability comes hope. If changes
in human behavior can cause new diseases, then changing human behavior may
prevent them in the future."
FOOD & GLOBAL IMPACT
a vegan I've generally felt that so many diseases
can be prevented by not eating meat and dairy. From
reading your book and speaking with you, I realize
now that even more diseases that could be prevented
by not producing meat to begin with."
G: "And now, of course, with the FAO report on
global warming suggesting that livestock production is playing a major
role in climate change, one realizes that regardless of whether or not
one's own dietary preferences are making a statement, it's not enough.
We have to really work against this system."
remember you writing that raising chickens is really a global issue.
The scope of what this suggests in terms of planetary impact on
humans and other species goes beyond just environmental."
G: "...and this is not like mad cow disease.
You don't want to get mad cow disease, you don't eat beef, you
don't eat products containing beef by-products, you don't get a
blood transfusion from somebody who ate meat, and essentially you
won't get mad cow disease. Bird flu is different. Once bird flu
jumps species into humans, it doesn't matter what you eat. So in
one sense, then we're all vulnerable, but in another sense, that's
all that matters... what we eat, what we as a species choose as
our protein sources, can have these global public health implications."
HOW DO YOU RELAX?
of the things Howard asked me to emphasize, is how
impressed he is with you, your character, your dedication
and motivation... your tireless energy. On a personal
level, I was quite surprised to learn that you give
away all profits from your books, speaking engagements,
and DVDs to charity. That's amazing... I mean, you
really walk your talk. Two books, three DVDs (two
on cooking sold out, one
on mad cow disease still available), you're a
gourmet vegan cook (contributing some excellent recipes
to Howard's latest book, "No More Bull!")...
constant speaking engagements, and a full-time job.
HOW do you relax? Do you relax?"
G: (laughing): "... I assume it's the same motivation
for Howard, too. The reason we do this work is that it really seizes
us and... makes us feel like part of the solution. There's such tremendous
challenges facing us as a species. I think we need to each need to feel
that we're part of making the world a better place for ourselves, for
future generations. When I am tempted to take time off, I don't enjoy
that time off because I realize I'm no longer working towards those solutions.
The time I spend away from it is time I could be getting some good work
done. I'm tremendously privileged to be in a position where I can pursue
this work full-time, so I want to take full advantage of that and maybe
inspire others to make this their life work as well."
long have you been a vegan?"
G: "Oh... for 17 years."
precipitated that decision? Was it your research?"
G: "I was at Farm Sanctuary [New York].
Gene took me to a stockyard in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Gave
me a tour. It's a matter of seeing it with your own eyes, I
think. I mean, that's really what does it. You can read about,
see pictures... even watch a video, but you can't smell it.
You can't hear it. You're not surrounded by it. That's what
did it for me. Maybe that's from my lack of imagination. Some
people can read a book and that's it! That's amazing. They
can change their lives. For me, it took that extra push. I
needed to kind of experience it, and once I was in that environment
feeding these animals... that was it."
you came at if from an AR standpoint?"
G: "Essentially. I was eating pretty
unhealthy [laughs]... but then, everything else obviously made
sense, too. Of course as I went into Medicine I recognized
that basically everyone I was seeing in the hospital, as Dr.
Esselstyn has said, was there because of their own choices.
But it wasn't really their choices, because there wasn't this
information out there. You know, the people we were seeing
dying of Emphysema grew up when there were ads with doctors
and their favorite brands of cigarettes. We're in a similar
situation today, people just don't realize it... that their
food choices can have such impact not only on their own health,
but now on global health, both environmentally and in terms
of public health. But I think slowly but surely these connections
are being made from all different directions, and I think it's
really an exciting time."
such great compassion for people. I remember first
meeting you in a large hotel room at a conference
packed with people who couldn't afford the normal
hotel rates, so you helped them all out. I was there
contributing some supplies from my own room."
G: (laughs): "Well, I had a free room!"
M: "Do you have any favorite food indulgences you
just tell me and 4,000 subscribers?"
G: (laughs): "I'm really impressed
with this new Scottish vegan cheese [Sheese].
Pangea and other mail-orders have it. For environmental reasons,
we should all try to buy and eat local, but this is kind
of the antithesis... it's my indulgence... having vegan cheese
shipped from the other side of the world."
for maybe a Reuben sandwich, or would it go with a glass
of red wine on the side?"
G: "I mean, it's so good it can be
eaten "wine and crackers style." There's also sorts
of exotic flavors that vegans don't even recognize as being
types of cheese."
GUESTS FROM HISTORY
you could have a "dinner party" with guests
from any time period in history, who would you invite?"
G: "Wow... there's so many great figures. Gandhi...
if he's not fasting! George Bernard Shaw. It would be a very intellectual
dinner. Lots of great minds from history."
G: "Noam Chomsky would be at the
table, and he's still around. It's all about what strategies
to get people really thinking about these crises, so I'd
love to get some good input from him."
INSPIRATION & CARBOPHOBIA
books or people what have particularly influenced
or inspired you?"
G: "In my field there was one person talking about
mad cow disease before Dr. Greger, and that was Howard Lyman. He was
doing that before anyone was doing it. He was speaking about the mad
cow epidemic in Britain in the late 80's before the media blackout was
lifted here in North America. I was still totally ignorant. People like
him led the way. In fact, much of my work is really not original in the
sense I just have to pull it together and try to make it readable to
the lay person. Basically, the science is already there, the work has
Just like with the Atkin's book [Dr. Greger's book in response was "Carbophobia"]...
here we have these low carb diets, that literally have been around for more
then a century, and we have a century of science telling that they're ineffective,
they're unscientific and potentially dangerous to human health, yet every few
decades another bestseller arrives... there's a disconnect between what science
is saying, the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association,
the National Cancer Institute, the American Cardiology Association... with
all of the major medical public health authorities saying it on one side, versus
the public perception... so for me, much of my work is bridging that gap, building
the bridge between the science and public and making it accessible. I didn't
do any "research" per se on low carb diets, but I was able to bring
the reality out."
yesterday another study came out, from Stanford, indicating that the Atkins
diet enabled people to lose more weight than Ornish's [Ornish
G: "I haven't seen that yet...
there's a lot of ways one can unhealthfully lose weight
in the short term, whether it's cocaine, or heroin, or
tobacco... amphetamines. The question is: can you keep
it off and can you do it in a way that you're not clogging
your arteries with saturated animal fat? Every single
long term study that has been done, a year or longer,
shows that Atkins utterly fails in terms of weight loss,
and of course their cholesterol profile goes down the
DR. GREGER: PUBLIC HEALTH HEALTH CZAR
here's your chance to change it all. The situation: Dennis
Kucinich has managed to win the 2008 Presidential
Election. He put Howard Lyman in charge of all Cabinet-level
staffing. Howard has named you the new Public Health
and Food Safety Czar, with full authority and funding
to do whatever you feel necessary. What would you
G: (laughs): "Number One: I would take all the
food safety concerns out of the realm of the USDA, and that's what has
been done in other countries. For example in Britain, the MAFF [Ministry
of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food], essentially their version of the
USDA, was completely disbanded, basically destroyed, and all food safety
authority was put in a new "Food Standards Agency," where it
should be, with public health experts and away from the ones that actually
control agriculture. The USDA has this inherent conflict of interest.
On the one hand, their mandate is to promote agricultural products, but
at the same time they're the ones in charge of protecting America's health,
they do the meat inspections, etc. There's this inherent conflict of
interest and may really explain what's at the root cause of why there's
so many food safety problems, why tens of thousands of Americans get
sick, and thousands [5,000] end up in hospitals and die from food-borne
illnesses every year. This doesn't need to happen. Yes, we hear about
food poisoning, but can you imagine going out to eat or feeding your
child something that could end up having to put them in the hospital
on dialysis, or even kill them? We should not have to cook the crap out
of our meat --- it shouldn't be there in the first place.
Food safety should go under the Department of Health and Human Services, to
break that kind of political stranglehold the USDA has on these issues. That's
nothing unique, this is what the National Academy of Sciences and Institutes
of Medicine have called for... this is what the public health community has
called for, but unfortunately there's this tremendous amount of power within
the [Washington DC] Beltway with agricultural interests preventing movement
in that direction. That's Number One on the list: separating out the promotion
of agricultural products with the protection of the food supply in America."
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PREPARE
closing comments or thoughts about the potential
G: "Well, it all comes down to a basic question,
that is, is it worth risking the lives of millions of people for the
sake of cheaper chicken? I encourage people to go to my website. The
entire text of the book is online for free, so there's no excuse
for not having this information to protect themselves and my contact
information is on the website as well, so feel free to contact me anytime
important for us to educate ourselves and our families,
and our communities, and actually do something. Go
to the school boards, go to these town meetings, bring
up "what are you doing for pandemic preparedness?" Go
in your corporations, your places of work, churches,
synagogues, and whatever institutions you are involved
with and ask what are they doing to prepare for the
next pandemic. If you need help, contact