Banned Antibiotics Found In U.S. Poultry

An emerging joint study reveals that long-banned antibiotics have been found in U.S. poultry. The research was conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Center for a Livable Future) and Arizona State University.

The study revealed evidence that suggests that fluoroquinolones, broad-spectrum antibiotics used to treat very serious and, often, drug resistant, infections, are still in use in poultry production, despite being banned years ago for this purpose, said Science Daily. Study results appear in the March 21 issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

The study looked for drugs and other residues in feather meal, which is traditionally used as a feed additive, including for poultry. The multi-state study revealed that the banned drugs were present in eight of 12 samples of feather meal despite being banned for this use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005, said Science Daily. This was the first study examining feather meal, a byproduct of poultry production derived from poultry feathers.

“The discovery of certain antibiotics in feather meal strongly suggests the continued use of these drugs, despite the ban put in place in 2005 by the FDA,” said David Love, PhD, the report’s lead author, wrote Science Daily. “The public health community has long been frustrated with the unwillingness of FDA to effectively address what antibiotics are fed to food animals,” he added.

The primary point for the 2005 FDA ban on fluoroquinolone use in poultry production was over the striking increase in fluoroquinolone resistance among Campylobacter bacteria. “In recent years, we’ve seen the rate of fluoroquinolone resistance slow, but not drop,” study co-author Keeve Nachman, PhD, Farming for the Future Program Director at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, told Science Daily. “With such a ban, you would expect a decline in resistance to these drugs. The continued use of fluoroquinolones and unintended antibiotic contamination of poultry feed may help ex-plain why high rates of fluoroquinolone-resistant Campylobacter continue to be found on commercial poultry meat products over half a decade after the ban,” Nachman added.

Samples tested contained antibiotic residues and residues from seven personal care products, the pain reliever acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), the antihistamine diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl), and the antidepressant fluoxetine (the active ingredient in Prozac), and caffeine, said Science Daily. “This study reveals yet another pathway of unwanted human exposure to a surprisingly broad spectrum of prescription and over the-counter drugs,” said study co-author Rolf Halden, PhD, PE, Co-Director of the Center for Health Information & Research, and Associate Director of the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Arizona State University.

Of serious concern, tests revealed that drug residues found were able to select for resistant bacteria. “A high enough concentration was found in one of the samples to select for bacteria that are resistant to drugs important to treat infections in humans,” noted Nachman, wrote Science Daily.

We routinely discuss the dangers of antibiotic misuse and overuse, and how these practices are directly linked to antibiotic resistant diseases that can wreak havoc on the body, as well as the links between treating farm animals with low antibiotic doses and wide-spread drug resistance. For instance, the historically massive 2011 recall—involving 36 million pounds of tainted ground turkey resulted in 111 reported salmonella illnesses, and one death. That outbreak involved a bacterium resistant to at least four antibiotics typically used in turkey production. Not surprising given that antibiotics are often given to food animals to quicken growth and compensate for unsanitary, overcrowded conditions.

We’ve explained that about 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used in farms to increase animal growth and offset filthy living conditions. Because livestock are treated with very low doses of the potent drugs, diseases are not being treated, but bacteria are encouraged to remain, growing more and more resistant. This practice has enabled, and continues to enable, bacteria to outsmart antibiotics and to survive, thrive, and strengthen so that existing drugs are powerless against their eradication.

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