Antibiotic Resistance: From Farm to Plate

The most ferocious germ resistant to many types of antibiotics is increased tenfold on chicken breast, which also happens to be the most consumed meat in America. Yet, producers of meat and dairy products are not required by law to disclose what types of antibiotics they are using on animals. What is more troubling is that many drugs are sold over the counter to meat and diary producers through feed suppliers. The scale of this problem only became clear in 2010 when the FDA published the total pharmaceutical sales of antibiotics for use in animals. An astonishing 80% of antibiotics sold in the United States are used on animals raised for consumption.

This troubling trend lacks solid data and despite the epidemiological evidence, the FDA requires further studies before any action can be taken. Scientists feel that solid evidence would require knowing which antibiotics are used, on what types of animal, and in what quantities. Not having this information makes it difficult to determine the exact relationship between routine antibiotic use in animals and antibiotic-resistant infections in people. While the use of antibiotics in humans can be closely monitored in humans through the infrastructure of our healthcare system, this is not the case for animals, making it harder to track use on farms and ranches.

This bacterial resistance has vast implications for our society. Infections that were once treated with penicillin are now requiring hospitalization and intravenous drip antibiotics. Further, the problem is fractionated among different departments: the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control. Essentially, no one is in charge.

For individuals who do consume meat and diary products, it is of utmost importance to know where your products come from and to understand the deeper implications of consumption.

Reference:

New York Times, Use of Antibiotics in Animals

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