Antibiotics in Food – Stopping the Rise of Superbugs

The Allen School Online blog has long covered the subject of MRSA and other so-called “superbugs” which are virulent strains of pathogens highly resistant to antibiotic treatment.  The long suspected culprit behind the rise of MRSA and other superbugs is the abuse of antibiotics by agri-business which continues to routinely include antibiotics in the feed used on poultry, cattle and hog farms.  The overuse of antibiotics is thought to promote the mutation of bacteria as all but the most resistant strains are eliminated.  Unfortunately, farm lobbies have effectively thwarted any attempts to regulate or eliminate this dangerous practice.  However, the public is ahead of Congress (as usual) in their support for such regulations.  Follow over the fold for some truly terrifying data.  In a great article at the Huffington Post, Dr. David Wallinga offered the following shocking data:
“Antibiotic sales data, collected from drug companies in 2009 by the Food and Drug Administration, shows the frightening reality: 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. for any reason are used in animals — nearly three-quarters of which are given in feed to livestock and poultry that aren’t sick. For decades, feed antibiotics have been FDA-approved to promote growth using less feed, and to offset the infection risk from raising animals in too-close confinement. Unfortunately, the 2010 data show farm use of antibiotics in the U.S. only keeps rising. According to the poll, of 2,211 surveyed Americans:
    • 71 percent believe that antibiotic overuse and misuse is causing antibiotic resistance and a human health crisis. In that, they agree with the USDA, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the American Medical Association and others.
    • 75 percent want government to act to restrict the use of antibiotics in the animal farms that produce those turkeys, hams and other meats.
  • Among 573 parents surveyed, support for government action is even higher. Nearly four in five (79 percent) both believe that antibiotic misuse is causing a health crisis and favor government restrictions on their use in animal agriculture.
Now, contrast consumer concern with overall government inaction. The FDA has never succeeded in taking an already approved feed antibiotic off the market. It proposed eliminating penicillin and tetracycline in feed in 1977, but Congress forced FDA to abandon the proposal.”
Consumer demand can also have a marked effect on how growers produce these animal products.  With demand for organic and anti-biotic-free food products running at all time highs, those companies that listen to the voice of the customer are seeing a handsome reward.  Consider the awesome Chipotle burrito chain which sources all the pork for its heavenly carnitas from anti-biotic free Niman Ranch.   Since 2008 public shares of Chipotle stock are up a whopping 400%.   Clearly, the demand for more responsible food production practices is high.  

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