What’s for dinner – Antibiotics!

Posted on Friday, August 27, 2010 in
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Animals Receive 8 Times More Antibiotics than People

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) admitted last month during Congressional testimony that the overuse of antibiotics in cows, chickens, pigs and other animals is leading to new strains of antibiotic-resistant “super bugs”.

“(The) USDA believes that it is likely that the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture does lead to some cases of antibacterial resistance among humans and in the animals themselves and it is important that these medically important antibiotics be used judiciously,”

said Dr. John Clifford, USDA Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, in written testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health Hearing on Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture.

We have reached the tipping point and antibiotics are now in our food supply, on your table for tonight’s meal most likely, or in that hamburger you grabbed for a quick lunch break.

According to a new study from the Union for Concerned Scientists, meat producers feed some 25 million pounds of antibiotics to chickens, pigs and cows for non-therapeutic purposes each year.

Stated another way, the amount of antibiotics fed to healthy animals is eight times greater than the amount given to sick people, which is 3 million pounds per year.

Eight Times More!

Factory farms pump the antibiotics into healthy animals at such saturation levels that they automatically flow through to us humans. The report, Hogging It: Estimates of Antimicrobial Abuse in Livestock, states that the livestock industry feeds 10 million pounds of antibiotics to healthy hogs each year; 11 million pounds to poultry; and 4 million pounds to cattle.

What scientists now fear is that this antibiotic saturation of our meat supply means drugs not approved for use in humans are now turning up on our family table in the food we eat.

70% of all Antibiotics are used on Farms

When most people get sick, they go to the doctor’s office and walk out with a prescription for antibiotics. But animals raised for meat are receiving antibiotics to speed up their growth and allow them to live in crowded pens, standing in urine and feces for their entire life.

The massive over prescription of antibiotics on animals is breeding new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can, and have, spread to humans. One such super bug is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA that is a growing problem in schools, hospitals, day care centers, locker rooms, public restrooms, and prisons.

In fact, more people die in the U.S. from antibiotic-resistant staph infections like MRSA than from AIDS. And antibiotics continue to decline in effectiveness for treating both human and animal diseases.

Take a moment now to watch this short video with Katie Couric of CBS reporting on the problem.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware of the issue and in July issued a draft guidance on the use of antibiotics for healthy animals, which unfortunately is non-binding (meaning non-effective) and does not go nearly far enough to stave off the coming public health disaster.

Critics say quite rightly it is just pandering to the big, deep pocketed livestock industry. Until the FDA implements effective and unambiguous regulations to curtail the use of antibiotics in meat production, the risks to the American public will only increase.

How Bad Is It? – It's Really, Really Bad!

A 2009 study from the University of Iowa found that 70% of hogs and 64% of workers in industrial animal confinements tested positive for MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant super bug mentioned above. Government officials now lamely admit that humans can become infected from eating or even handling infected meat.

Antibiotics fed routinely to livestock in their food and water promotes faster growth, but the practice is also used as a way to compensate for the effects of extreme overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in factory farms.

Big livestock producers argue that there are no alternatives, but that is not the case. In 1998, after growing worried about the spread of resistant bacteria in humans, Denmark banned antibiotics for non-therapeutic use in animals. Since then, the Danish livestock industry has grown 43%.

While the FDA’s draft guidance may have some good suggestions, entrenched interests like big livestock producers, will not respond to voluntary half measures.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

Over a century ago, in 1907, Russian biologist and Nobel Prize winner Elie Metchnikoff wrote about longevity research in his famous book The Prolongation of Life. The hero of the book was a probiotic bacterial strain called “Streptococcus thermophilus”, which was famous in scientific circles for promoting gastrointestinal health.

Streptococcus thermophilus, along with Lactobacillus bulgaricus, soon became the starter strains used to make yogurt. Every tiny tub of yogurt today owes its existence to these two amazing probiotic compounds.

  • Eliminate all meat and dairy products from your diet. If you are not yet ready to do this, consume only organic and/or free range meats and fresh-caught fish, avoid farm-raised fish.
  • Consume fermented foods like sauerdraut, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, pickles and non-dairy yogurt.
  • Take a multi-spectrum probiotic daily with at least 20 Billion live probiotics, like Pro-Biotic Max. Probiotics are the friendly bacteria living in your digestive tract that are essential for proper digestion and immune system function. Antibiotics destroy these good bacteria, and supplementation is the fastest way to replenish them.
  • Write the FDA with your thoughts about the overuse of antibiotics.
  • Visit the website Regulations.gov and submit a comment expressing your feelings about the use of antibiotics and healthy livestock.

Most U.S. Antibiotics Fed to Healthy Livestock
UI study finds MRSA in Midwestern swine, workers
Draft Guidance: Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals; Availability
Antibiotics in Livestock Affect Humans, USDA Testifies
Denmark’s Case for Antibiotic-Free Animals

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