As Americans ring in the new year, many of us will resolve to get healthy. Meat and poultry producers can help — by making a resolution to put their farm animals on an antibiotics diet.
Antibiotics are lifesaving medicines. But overusing them can have unintended consequences. That’s what we’re seeing on industrial farms where these drugs are being used on a massive scale in a way that threatens the public’s health. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics are sold each year for use in food animal production, most often to make the animals grow faster and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. By comparison, drug makers sold about 7 million pounds of these products last year to treat sick people. Read more
As concerns grow about antibiotic-resistant pathogens in our food, environment, and hospitals, the Agricultural Research Service is trying to figure out the best alternatives for food animal producers, who have long relied on these miracle drugs for combating diseases and boosting feed efficiency.
Though antibiotic resistance is a known consequence of antibiotic use in both humans and animals, agricultural use has come under greater scrutiny in recent years as more consumers take an interest in how their food is produced. According to the most recent estimates, around 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States each year are used in food animal production. Read more
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking its biggest step yet to rein in the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that help food animals grow bigger, faster. The agency said Wednesday it is asking veterinary drug makers to voluntarily phase out medically important drugs from being available over the counter in the hope that the shift will help combat growing antimicrobial resistance.
Under FDA’s proposal, these antimicrobials will still be allowed in animal agriculture but, if veterinary drug companies agree to change the labels, farmers will be allowed to use the drugs only to prevent, control, or treat diseases and under the supervision of a veterinarian and not for promoting growth or improving feed efficiency.
The agency said it was taking the voluntary action to “preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans.” Read more
How many times have you checked a food package to see where it was produced, wondering about all the energy it took to get from the farm to your fork? Once an issue that few people pondered, the “eat local” movement has inspired conscientious consumers all over the country to contemplate how we can each do better by the planet at meal-time. The issue’s gone so mainstream that even TIME magazine published a cover story a few years ago entitled, “Forget Organic—Eat Local.”
Well, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, we would be wiser to reconsider the amount of meat products on our grocery list rather than merely looking for how many miles our food may have traveled.
How much more concerned should we be? A lot. Read more
A bipartisan group of senators re-introduced a bill late last week aimed at preserving the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics by limiting their use in food animal feed. In the face of the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, public health experts and activists have pushed for regulation to limit the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
Recent estimates indicate around 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to food animals.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the primary sponsor of The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, otherwise known as PAMTA, reintroduced the measure to address “the rampant overuse of antibiotics in agriculture that creates drug-resistant bacteria, an increasing threat to human beings.” Read more
One thesis in my new book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them is that so much animal mistreatment happens because so many of us in society have become disconnected from animals. In other words, they are far removed from our daily experiences, especially those animals used in institutional settings for a wide variety of purposes. Read more
The editors of Scientific American recently encouraged U.S. hog farmers to “follow Denmark and stop giving farm animals low-dose antibiotics.” Sixteen years ago, in order to reduce the threat of increased development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in their food system and the environment, Denmark phased in an antibiotic growth promotant ban in food animal production. Guess what? According to Denmark’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries the ban is working and the industry has continued to thrive. The government agency found that Danish livestock and poultry farmers used 37 percent less antibiotics in 2009 than in 1994, leading to overall reductions of antimicrobial resistance countrywide. Read more
The national non-profit Meatless Monday campaign is proving to be “The Little Engine That Could” in the environmental public health world. In just the last two years national awareness of Meatless Monday more than doubled. According to a commissioned survey by FGI Research more than 30 percent of Americans are aware of the public health campaign, compared to 15 percent awareness in 2008. No doubt the announcement last week that Sodexo, a food service company which serves more than ten million North American customers a day, has adopted the campaign will only help to increase Meatless Monday’s popularity. Read more
Antibiotics, one of the world’s greatest medical discoveries, are slowly losing their effectiveness in fighting bacterial infections and the massive use of the drugs in food animals may be the biggest culprit. The growing threat of antibiotic resistance is largely due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both people and animals, which leads to an increase in “super-bacteria.” But people use a much smaller portion of antibiotics sold in this country compared to the amount set aside for food animals.
In fact, according to new data just released by the FDA, of the antibiotics sold in 2009 for both people and food animals almost 80 percent were reserved for livestock and poultry. A huge portion of those antibiotics were never intended to fight bacterial infections, rather producers most likely administered them in continuous low-dosages through feed or water to increase the speed at which their animals grew. And that has many public health experts and scientists troubled. Read more
It is time for some straight talk about the risks of using massive amounts of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. I don’t know one infectious disease expert who would disagree that there are direct links between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in people. Period. If you don’t believe me just ask Rear Admiral Ali Kahn, Assistant Surgeon General and Acting Deputy Director for the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease. Just this summer, during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dr. Kahn testified that, “there is unequivocal evidence and relationship between [the] use of antibiotics in animals and [the] transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing adverse effects in humans.”
Knowing this, I continue to be frustrated with the fact that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack does not publicly recognize that the industrial food animal production system is a leading contributor to the increase of antibiotic resistance in pathogens that infect people and animals. Earlier this month at a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association meeting, Vilsack responded to a question about the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) by saying the, “USDA’s public position is, and always has been, that antibiotics need to be used judiciously, and we believe they already are.” Read more