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US meats’ farming massive use of antibiotics creating more resistant bacteria

Thursday, July 19th 2012 - 18:29 UTC
Full article 14 comments
Cows, pigs, poultry and fish suck up 29 million pounds (80%) of antibiotics sold in the United States Cows, pigs, poultry and fish suck up 29 million pounds (80%) of antibiotics sold in the United States

The factory farming of cows, pigs, poultry and fish sucks up 29 million pounds—80%—of antibiotics sold in the United States. Many illness-causing bacteria are now resistant to most or all of the antibiotics that once killed them.

While the overuse of antibiotics on humans has contributed to this public health situation, the most egregious factor in creating antibiotic resistance is the routine, widespread, greed-driven dosing of livestock.

About a quarter of US meat and poultry samples contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The US Food and Drugs Agency, after more than three decades of dithering, has finally acknowledged a “mounting public health problem of global significance.”

But, when even industry acknowledges a serious problem, an April FDA report containing “non-binding recommendations” politely asks the food industry to use antibiotics “judiciously”—and gives industry three years to figure out how to circumvent the reforms.

In 1946, producers discovered that adding antibiotics to feed increased animal growth, and industry profits. This sub-therapeutic dosing also allowed livestock to survive filthy, overcrowded conditions that would otherwise generate high and unprofitable rates of disease and death.

Antibiotics work by targeting specific bacteria, but they can leave the field open for resistant strains.

CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are nearly ideal for generating resistant bacteria, and then spreading them through workers, flies, soil, air, water and, of course, food.

Strains of strep; MRSA; tuberculosis; malaria; pneumonia; gonorrhoea; various food poisons, including salmonella; along with other dangerous pathogens are increasingly impervious to common, inexpensive antibiotics.

New bacterial strains directly sourced to CAFO are endemic in hospitals. An estimated 2 million Americans become sick and 99,000 die annually, from hospital-acquired infections, “the majority of which result from such resistant strains,” the New York Times reported.

Treating resistant diseases costs 16-26 billion dollars in annual medical expenses and 35 billion in lost work time, Tufts University researchers estimated.

The alphabet slurry of US government agencies responsible for remediating this problem—FDA, USDA, CDC and others—has failed.

Leaving loopholes wide enough for a cattle drive, and enforcement mechanisms as toothless as a hen, the new FDA report calls for animal antibiotic labelling to drop weight gain from its recommended uses.

(Given how frequently human drugs are used off-label—i.e., for other than approved purposes—the change is beyond silly.)

The report also calls for veterinary “involvement” in determining “judicious use,” including preventively treating animals that might become sick from “production practices and herd health history.”

Without fundamental changes to how CAFOs raise their “product,” it is hard to imagine circumstances that would not call for preventative antibiotics. (Meat Trade News daily)


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  • redpoll

    Excellent article: j
    it was time that this was pointed out though I think the consumers are becoming more discriminating in this respect. Cattle and sheep are ruminant animals and do there best on grass,hay or a cereal ration to finish. The feeding of hormones is indefensible as is feeding ruminants on reprocessed brains of old sheep and indiscriminate vaccination with the results in the human population down the food chain that the article refers to

    Jul 19th, 2012 - 10:40 pm 0
  • Think

    (1)Red Poll
    Excellent article indeed.....
    Just a question to an Oriental farmer.....
    What's your opinion/position on GM rice?
    What's your opinion/position on GMO's in general.

    Jul 20th, 2012 - 03:44 am 0
  • redpoll

    WEll Think. I think its rather like two porcupines about to mate : proceed but with extreme caution

    Jul 20th, 2012 - 01:03 pm 0
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