US food animals threaten our health: Government must end antibiotic subtherapeutic use!

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For over 70 years, the US government has allowed our meat supply to become a conduit for antibiotic resistant bacteria. This puts a whopping 95% of Americans—those of us who eat meat—at risk of developing antibiotic resistance.  So when we get sick, it would take a longer time for commonly prescribed antibiotics to alleviate symptoms—if they work at all. That amounts to increased health care costs, research costs (to design new drugs), sick people, sick-leaves, and even deaths. Despite scientific evidence, the US government continues to march to the beat of meat industry bigwigs—at the expense of not only the American public but the world. (Meat accounts for almost 20% of US agricultural exports.)

So why are hoards of farmers giving their healthy food animals anitbiotics? Current industrial farming practices leave animals vulnerable to illness and—sadly—death. Antibiotics give these animals a fighting chance. For farmers, this means lower production costs and higher profits. For the rest of us, it means cheaper meat. But not everyone wins. The US population has more resistance to common antibiotics than Sweeden and Australia, both of whom banned or limited antibiotic subtherapeutic use in food animal production.

It is time for government regulation to reflect the value of human lives. Let’s support the Preservation of Antimicrobials for Medical Treatment Act. Not only should there be a phase-out of subtherapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animals, but the NIH and CDC should fund agricultural research to improve farming methods.

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6 Responses to “US food animals threaten our health: Government must end antibiotic subtherapeutic use!”

  1. kmansukh Says:

    That’s a very well written blog Bosede.
    I agree with you, I believe it’s about time that we addressed this issue. Its interesting that the CDC had very strict guidelines for antibiotic use in for animals. Specifically it states “Antibiotics must be used judiciously in humans and animals because both uses contribute to the emergence, persistence, and spread of resistant bacteria. Resistant bacteria in food-producing animals are of particular concern.” (http://www.cdc.gov/narms/animals.html)

    Further the FDA has established legislature in regrard to disease treatment for animals that are sick, disease control for a group of animals when some of the animals are sick, disease prevention for a group of healthy animals that are at risk of becoming sick, and
    Growth promotion or increased feed efficiency in a herd or flock of animals to promote weight gain.

    Its surprising that the lobbyists of the meat industry are not able to see what the longitudinal effects of over-using antibiotics has on the human race as a whole, while solely focusing on their myopic view of profitability

  2. nrechac1 Says:

    I would add that it is not only time for government regulation to address the importance of human lives but also the health and treatment of animals. Industrial farming practices can be inhumane and the conditions under which the animals are raised creates the need for the antibiotics use. Therefore, maybe the real or primary issue that needs to be addressed and regulated is industrial farming practices. Antibiotic overuse is a secondary problem as a result of the farming practices.

  3. meghanoconnell2015 Says:

    For me, this is one of the most important policy issues in the US right now. The US food policy shapes the culture of the US food system, which shapes the state of the Nations health. As it stands, the systemic flaws (like the one you have addressed) in food and farm policy prioritize profits for industrial agriculture and de-incentivize the production of local, healthy food. Other components of the problem are subsidies that keep corn and soybean prices artificially low keep junk food cheap and put healthier alternatives like fruit and vegetables at a disadvantage. Even if people are educated to make healthy choices, they can only make those choices as far as healthy food is available and affordable in their environment. In many places, this is not the reality. Very well written and very interesting!

  4. mislam21 Says:

    Thanks for bringing this issue here. I agree with you that controlling the use of drugs in poultry feeds is one of the major policy issue in USA right now. Using antibiotics in poultry feeds do not contribute less in creating super-bugs than the counter drugs are doing in developing countries. Super-bugs are the most challenging threats to the American people as near 100,000 people in US die each year due to the attack of super-bugs that is greater than any deadly war America had experienced in the past. Further, there are no additional antibiotics in the pipelines to fight against super-bugs and the interest of pharmaceutical companies has shifted from discovering antibiotics to some other lucrative research like sex piles. Therefore, pharmaceutical companies are coming back with the old age harmful chemicals to kill the super-bugs that are very harmful to human bodies. I strongly believe that US should take immediate action to stop unnecessary use of antibiotics in poultry feeds.

  5. eonyang1 Says:

    I agree with this blogger – this bill is long overdue as the issue of rising antibiotic resistance is urgent. The number of antibiotics being discovered is not matching the number of emerging antibiotic-resistant organisms being seen. There are only a few antibiotics or combination of antibiotics that can be used to fight off these infections. The widespread use of antibiotics in animal farming to enhance growth performance is a major contributing factor to this rapid increase in antibiotic resistance. In countries where the use of antibiotics in animal farming is highly restricted, antibiotic resistance in the human populations has decreased. Indeed farmers in the US now have no excuse because farmers elsewhere in the world have succeeded to successfully raise healthy animals without using antibiotics to enhance growth performance. We can only hope that legislators will see sense and use this evidence to pass this long overdue bill.

  6. lhobbswhollandnrechache1 Says:

    You are what you eat eats. In other words, if you eat chicken/beef/tomatoes/fruit that is chemical laden, then you too are eating the chemicals. This upsets me to no end, so much that I am in the 5% that endeavors to eat as much as I can that is not from mainstream food sources. I bought a farm and raise my own chickens. I trade with others in my area – eggs for produce or other meats, etc. I participate in a CSA. I know in my area farmers markets and organic produce/humanely treated-free range/non-GMO products are increasing in the grocery stores. This can be hard to find and costs me more than if I just bought the conventionally raised foods, but I believe it is better for my family, the environment and me. Versus 100 or so years ago or so, we have the technology now to do more traditional earth/animal/plant friendly food production without using as many chemicals. The manifestation of this antibiotic over use is seen my me and other providers every day when we are trying to treat people’s infections and they are resistant to a multitude of antibiotics that in years past resistance to these drugs was unheard of. We can change the tide of this. Not only will this impact our food chain but our healthcare as well. Great article, thanks for the information.

    -WHolland

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