Animals Are Dangerous To Eat – Ridding Meat of Antibiotics

Taken from Environmental Nutrition – The Newsletter of Food, Nutrition & Health Volume 38, Issue 4- April 2015

If you are still eating meat you need to know this.


Ridding Meat of Antibiotics – A first step in fighting antibiotic resistance is to purchase antibiotic free meat.

Antibiotic resistance is a serious public health issue.  It can limit your treatment options when you’re sick, raise your healthcare costs, and increase the number, severity, and duration of some infections.  Today there is evidence and consensus among scientific and medical groups that the use of antibiotics in food animal production contributes to antibiotic resistence in humans.  A CDC report published in 2013 estimated that in the US, more than two million people are sickened every year with antibiotic-resistence infections, with at least 23,000 dying as a result.

What’s the problem?

The majority of antibiotics used in animal agriculture are not used therapeutically for treatment, control, or prevention of disease.  Instead low doses of antibiotics are used in concentrated animal feeding operations for production reasons, such as increasing the rate of weight gain.  These low doses over extended periods of time allow resistant strains of bacteria to emerge, amplify their persistence, and disseminate into the environment, where they can be transferred to humans. 

Overall prevalence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E coli is up, according to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a collaboration by CDC, FDA, USDA, and state and local public health departments.

In the U.S. it’s estimated that 61 percent of medically important antibiotics, such as tetracyclines, are used in food animal production.

Their latest [2011] Retail Meat Report found that prevalence of E coli remained fairly high in chicken [71.0%] ground turkey [76.7%], ground beef [44.8%] and pork chops [30.4%].

Fixing the problem.

In 2006, the European Union banned the use of antibiotics for food animal growth production. And the U.S. is making inroads, too. In 2013, the FDA took steps to eliminate the use of antibiotics in food animals for growth promotion.  It asked drug companies to remove indications for “feed efficiency” and “weight gain” from the labels of their antibiotic products, and require veterinarians to oversee addition of these drugs to feed and water.  While this is an important step, there is some criticism that the language is too vague and doesn’t establish a clear target for reduction of total antibiotics used in food animals.

Emerging: Antibiotic-free meats.

A 2012 Consumer Reports survey found 72 percent of people were “extremely” or “very concerned” about the widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed.  In response, food producers are bringing to market more chicken, beef and pork raised without antibiotics. You can do our part to help reduce antibiotic resistance by supporting food producers who do not use antibiotics subtherapeutically. 

By Ashley Colpaart, MS, RD

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