There’s ketamine in your chicken soup!


Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Ketamine Hydrochloride is used as an anaesthetic in medical procedures or surgeries. It is a white crystal that is also used as a recreational hallucinogenic anaesthetic (and is used for date rape). It is banned in this country for open sale. Unfortunately, the veterinary hospitals have suffered as a result of this recent ban, because we now have to use much more expensive anaesthetics when we operate on animals.

Like all drugs it has major side effects. An allergic reaction may result in tightness in the chest or throat, trouble breathing, swallowing or talking, hoarseness or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat. Sometimes it can cause a loss of appetite and nausea. It can cause urinary tract damage from the kidney to the bladder.

It induces a dream-like feeling, jerky muscle movements, drowsiness, confusion, unusual thoughts. The effects don’t last long, but until they wear off, ketamine can cause a loss of feeling in the body and paralysis of the muscles. It can also lead you to experiencing a distortion of reality, giving you a floating or detached feeling, as if the mind and body have been separated, with some people feeling incapable of moving. It causes headaches, confusion, agitation, panic attacks, and impairment in short and long term memory. Frequent use is sometimes associated with the development of depression. Studies show that frequent anaesthesia drugs in young children may lead to long-term brain problems. This may also happen in unborn babies if the mother ingests ketamine during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Ketamine can be injected, mixed into a drink, or snorted. And now you can eat it in your chicken as well.

Consumer groups in America have filed a case against the third largest chicken company (with a sale of more than 2.8 billion dollars), after the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) scrutinised 69 poultries and found 82 ‘unconfirmed residues’ in the chicken, including ketamine, antibiotics, pesticides and growth hormones in the chicken. The company sold its chicken – as most poultries do – as 100 per cent natural. The company not only sells chicken under its own label but supplies to different distributors who sell under different labels, and thousands of standalone restaurants. And now India has allowed the import of this chicken.

No one knows why the poultries used ketamine. Was it to sedate the animals before slaughter or before live transport? Was it to make the consumer feel ‘high’ or ‘satiated’ after eating the chicken?

These are the same poultries that refused to reduce antibiotic use because “raising chickens without antibiotics would lead to a high number of chicken deaths”. So, they admit that their chickens are so badly kept in filthy, inhumane, factory farm conditions that they are in a permanent state of illness that needs antibiotics. All over the world consumers have become resistant to antibiotics. Normal infections have escalated into a new world of superbugs that doctors have no tools to fight. All investigations show antibiotics, used on animals bred for slaughter as the main culprits. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 report links two of 18 antibiotic-resistant bacterium to the use of antibiotics in animals.

Ketamine wasn’t the only problematic substance found in the chicken.  The other 82 ‘unconfirmed residues’ were:

Eleven antibiotics – chloramphenicol, a powerful antibiotic that can trigger bone marrow suppression in humans, prohibited for use in animals that will become food; amoxicillin, known as a ‘medically important for humans’ not approved in poultry; Desethylene ciprofloxacin, a ‘medically important antibiotic for humans’; Prednisone, a steroid; Ketoprofen, an anti–inflammatory drug; Butorphanol, an opioid analgesic; the pesticides Abamectin and Emamectin.

Two substances banned in chicken production included the synthetic growth hormones Melengestrol acetate and Ractopamine. Three instances of penicillin residue were detected, for which the residue regulatory limit is zero. Consumers eating the chickens are also eating steroids, recreational and anti inflammatory drugs and prohibited antibiotics. All these can make people very sick.

This is not the first time unlabeled human drugs have been found in meat. The New York Times reported that most chicken feather-meal samples, examined in one study, contained Tylenol, one-third contained the antihistamine Benadryl, and samples from China actually contained Prozac and the antihistamine Hydroxyzine. The FDA has caught many hatcheries injecting antibiotics directly into chicken eggs. The largest poultry seller in the US was caught injecting eggs with the antibiotic gentamicin.

In 2013 the FDA issued new antibiotic regulations. Has it made any difference to the use of antibiotics in chickens? No.

Antibiotic use is on the rise; they are simply relabelled. ‘Growth promoters’ (meaning antibiotics and hormones) has been removed from labels, but the drugs are routinely used for the new indication of ‘disease prevention.’

Even after the guidance was published, a Reuters investigation found all the poultry factory farm companies using antibiotics, hormones and pesticides pervasively, completely ignoring the regulators. Records showed the antibiotics bacitracin and Monensin are added ‘to every ration fed to a flock grown early this year.’  Also caught red-handed using antibiotics, was the restaurant chain that is so popular in India.

But antibiotics are the least of the unlabeled drugs and chemicals lurking in chicken. According to the Associated Press, US chickens continue to be fed with inorganic arsenic to produce quicker weight gain with less food and enhanced colour. This arsenic later goes into the human body.

The effects of ketamine are more pronounced when eaten with alcohol. So, people who eat chicken nuggets while drinking may have a trance like confused reaction that is not caused by the alcohol alone.

Most people do not realise that big pharmaceutical companies all have a veterinary division in which they make hormones and antibiotics for animals raised for food. They never advertise this; and until a crisis happens the media does not report it. But the danger to human beings is acute.