A new report reveals that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed high-risk antibiotics to be used in farm animals. For the most part, the antibiotics are used to put weight on the animals and to better enable them live in the squalid conditions of today’s factory farm.
Antibiotic misuse and overuse are directly linked to antibiotic resistant diseases that can wreak havoc on the body, and has been tied to treating farm animals with low antibiotic doses and widespread drug resistance. As we’ve long explained, about 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are used in farms; much to increase animal growth and offset filthy living conditions; some antibiotics are combined with animal feed and water so that livestock gain weight and remain fairly healthy while being crammed into stalls. The FDA says it has fought against this issue, but that the agriculture industry says drugs are a necessary component in today’s meat production industry.
The practice, meant, in part to ameliorate fetid farm conditions, is also dangerous to human health. The broad use of antibiotics that end up in our food promotes the spread and growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to Time, which noted that this is something on which every expert not involved in the food and drug industries agrees.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 2 million Americans fall ill and 23,000 die due to antibiotic resistant infections. Although some of the illness and death may be blamed on the over prescribing of antibiotics to people, the overuse and abuse of antibiotics in meat production is particularly worrisome; however, the agency has not acted on the practice, wrote Time.
A report issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) used FDA documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and discovered that the FDA allowed 30 potentially harmful antibiotics to remain on the market and to be used as additives in feed and water used for livestock, Time reported. Of the 30 antibiotics, 18 were rated as “high risk” by the FDA. The additives have not been recalled and many are still on the market for food production. “The FDA knew the risks, but they still haven’t done anything to revoke the approval of these drugs,” says Avinash Kar, an attorney for the NRDC and the co-author of the new report.
Last month, the FDA released guidelines seeking voluntary label changes that would prevent farmers from using the drugs for growth promotion and would require a veterinarian’s prescription to use the drugs for therapeutic purposes. Time reported that consumer and environmental groups believe that little change will occur without a legal mandate.
Meanwhile, in 2012, a study found that antibiotics in chicken could be the cause of bladder infections in women that are described as very painful, enduring, and difficult-to-treat. The study indicated that more than 8 million women are at risk for developing resilient infections because of their handling and consuming chicken that carries antibiotic resistant E. coli infections.
Because livestock are treated with very low doses of the potent drugs, diseases are not being treated and bacteria are encouraged to remain, growing more and more resistant. This has enabled, and continues to enable, bacteria to outsmart antibiotics and to survive, thrive, and strengthen making existing drugs powerless against their eradication.