It’s time to reconsider the broad use of antibiotics in farm animals

Antibiotics are currently used widely and irresponsibly in raising farm animals.  These antibiotics are meant for treating humans and this use in animals entering the food chain breeds antibiotic resistant bacteria that make people sick, and are much harder to recover from. We have been aware for quite sometime that this happens.  Fifteen years ago, when Flouroquinolone antibiotics which were meant for human consumption were approved for use in animals, physicians soon started seeing  Campylobacter strains causing human illness that were resistant to Fluoroquinolone treatment. The Food and Drug Administration understands that this is the case, the United States Department of Agriculture is aware of this. The Centers for Disease Control knows this. The World Health Organization knows this, and S.T.O.P. is frightened by this.

Why are antibiotics being misused to treat animals that aren’t necessarily sick?
Animals are now being given antibiotics not only to treat infection, but also to prophylactically resist infection. Or at least that’s what the food-animal production industry would like us to believe. Instead, antibiotics are being given to animals because it decreases the time that it takes some animals to be ready for slaughter. Antibiotics increase growth; this is good for the efficiency of meat production but horrible for human health.

Antibiotics that are given to animals that cause antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are a serious food safety problem. Salmonella and Campylobacter, frequently found in food products of animal origin, can be treated effectively with antibiotics. But when these same antibiotics used to treat sick humans are used to treat healthy animals, they breed resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria are a huge food safety concern because the uncooked meat that we bring into our homes from the grocery store can easily and accidentally enter the human body. I would like to be able to treat my kitchen as a kitchen rather than a biohazard zone, but bacteria can spread from shopping bags, plastic wrap from the meat packaging, countertops, cutting boards and from direct ingestion of undercooked or cross-contaminated food products.

As it is, it’s hard enough to keep bacteria from making us ill without the worry of antibiotic resistance. Coming down with a foodborne bacterial illness can be horrific enough, but not being able to be effectively treated by an antibiotic is just a senseless abuse of good medicine. 

At S.T.O.P. we have come across several families who have had a loved one infected with a foodborne bacterial illness that can not be treated by antibiotics.  It adds a whole new layer of complexity and frustration to an already negative situation.   We are a part of a coalition that is currently working on upcoming legislation that will address this issue.  To find out more about it and to get timely updates on recalls, outbreaks and food safety news delivered right to your email inbox, sign up for our S.T.O.P. E-alerts

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