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Antibiotics in Agriculture Linked to Rise in “Superbugs”

Antibiotics in Agriculture Linked to Rise in Superbugs

On September 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their report, Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States, which details multiple explanations for the rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, one of which being the amount of antibiotics fed to animals raised for human consumption. According to the report and a cited FDA study, “…there are more kilograms of antibiotics sold in the United States for food-producing animals than for people…” p.36. It may well be that antibiotic use on farms started the same way it is used today for humans, treatment, but as conditions on farms worsened and antibiotic use increased to disastrous levels. The recommendation offered by the CDC is to only use antibiotics under supervised veterinary care to treat diseases, not to promote growth.

With “superbug” being a new buzzword nowadays, it’s important to realize there is real truth to the saying. When animals raised for food are given a constant supply of antibiotics, it encourages the strongest strains of bacteria to reproduce and create potential superbugs. The report explains that, “In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require prolonged and/or costlier treatments, extend hospital stays, necessitate additional doctor visits and healthcare use, and result in greater disability and death compared with infections that are easily treatable with antibiotics.” P.11 When we get sick, we are often prescribed an antibiotic to fight infection and get us back on our feet fast. Eating meat laced with antibiotics weakens their effectiveness to help us get better.

Antibiotic use on farm animals is a longstanding issue that has caught the attention of many concerned people. This report adds to an already impressive amount of literature on the subject, and perhaps will speed up the process of the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act introduced by Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) in June of this year. The bill would require the FDA to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock and effectively go along with the recommendations laid out in the CDC’s report.

What can you do? A first step for some could be to support companies that recognize antibiotic use in meat is an issue, and those that are trying to do better. Panera Bread recently launched “Live Consciously Eat Deliciously,” which documents their attempt to go antibiotic free.

For the complete report, visit CDC.gov. Check out the infographic below to see how antibiotic resistance spreads.

National Summary Data, Antibiotic Resistance

Lead Image Source: Nathan Reading/Flickr

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