23 August 2011

Antibiotic overload: Meat production uses 29 million pounds of antibiotics every year

The meat industry uses 29 million pounds of antibiotics every year. This means 80 percent of all antibiotics in the United States today are going to factory farm animals.

Some within the meat industry claim there is no evidence these antibiotics are creating harmful bacteria causing sickness in humans.

However, Vaishali Dharmarha, a research assistant at the University of Maryland, summarized 63 academic papers and government studies on the subject. Her findings are as follows:

• "Use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs in food animal production and human medicine is the main factor accelerating antimicrobial resistance."

• "[F]ood animals, when exposed to antimicrobial agents, may serve as a significant reservoir of resistant bacteria that can transmit to humans through the food supply."

• "Several studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella showed that [antibiotic resistance] in Salmonella strains was most likely due to the antimicrobial use in food animals, and that most infections caused by resistant strains are acquired from the consumption of contaminated food."

• "Farmers and farm workers may get exposed to resistant bacteria by handling animals, feed, and manure. These exposures are of significant concern to public health, as they can transfer the resistant bacteria to family and community members, particularly through person-to-person contacts."

• "Resistant bacteria can also spread from intensive food animal production (factory farms) area to outside boundaries through contact between food animals and animals in the external environment. Insects, flies, houseflies, rodents, and wild birds play an important role in this mode of transmission. They are particularly attracted to animal wastes and feed sources from where they carry the resistant bacteria to several locations outside the animal production facility."

Jonathan Reynolds
Jonathan is a freelance writer and blogger residing in upstate New York.

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