The problem of widespread and indiscriminate use of small doses of antibiotics in animal feed is widely regarded as leading to the development of antibiotic resistant disease strains such as MSRA. Nicholas Kristof has has written about this in the New York Times years ago (here and here). And the problem has been widely discussed in the alternative media as well. What’s new in this story by Jane Black is a report on how the Dutch government is actually doing something to improve the situation. And if they can do it why couldn’t we?
From Jane Black, on Prevention.com
Photograph by Stuart Freedman (via Prevention)
“It’s the stench, a pungent mix of ammonia and wet earth, that gives it away. This neat row of brick buildings in the Dutch village of Bergeijk is a massive chicken farm. Inside the six barns are 175,000 birds, hidden from the neighbors’ view and without any access to the outdoors or even natural light. To see them, visitors must slip into sterile blue jumpsuits and plastic booties, a low-tech but effective type of biosecurity that stops people from sneaking in any dangerous bacteria—or taking anything out. Continue reading
From Barry Estabrook, at On Earth:
“Feeding antibiotics to healthy livestock is leading to an emerging human health crisis — one scientists and the government have seen coming for decades
Stuart Levy once kept a flock of chickens on a farm in the rolling countryside west of Boston. No ordinary farmer, Levy is a professor of molecular biology and microbiology and of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. This was decades ago, and his chickens were taking part in a never-before-conducted study. Half the birds received feed laced with a low-dose of antibiotics, which U.S. farmers routinely administer to healthy livestock — not to cure illness, but merely to increase the animals’ rates of growth. The other half of Levy’s flock received drug-free food. Continue reading
From Nicholas Kristof, in the NY Times:
“…For Bob, a crucial step came when he switched to organic production eight years ago. A Stanford study has cast doubt on whether organic food is more nutritious, but it affirms that organic food does contain fewer pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bob’s big worry in switching to organic production was whether cows would stay healthy without routine use of antibiotics because pharmaceutical salesmen were always pushing them as essential. Indeed, about 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States go to farm animals — leading to the risk of more antibiotic-resistant microbes, which already cause infections that kill some 100,000 Americans annually.
Bob nervously began to experiment by withholding antibiotics. To his astonishment, the cows didn’t get infections; on the contrary, their health improved. He realized that by inserting antibiotics, he may have been introducing pathogens into the udder. As long as cows are kept clean and are given pasture rather than cooped up in filthy barns, there’s no need to shower them with antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, he says. Continue reading
From Discover Magazine blog:
“We aren’t single individuals, but colonies of trillions. Our bodies, and our guts in particular, are home to vast swarms of bacteria and other microbes. This “microbiota” helps us to harvest energy from our food by breaking down the complex molecules that our own cells cannot cope with. They build vitamins that we cannot manufacture. They ‘talk to’ our immune system to ensure that it develops correctly, and they prevent invasions from other more harmful microbes. They’re our partners in life.
What happens when we kill them?
Farmers have been doing that experiment in animals for more than 50 years. By feeding low doses of antibiotics to healthy farm animals, they’ve found that they could fatten up their livestock by as much as 15 percent. You can put the antibiotics in their feed or in their water. You can give the drugs to cows, sheep, pigs or chickens. You can try penicillins, or tetracyclines, or many other classes of antibiotics. The effect is the same: more weight. Continue reading
From Jim Romahn, on Agri007:
New York judge Theodor Katz is forcing the United States Food and Drug Administration to take another look at petitions from those who want a ban on antibiotics in livestock and poultry farming.
The judge is tangling with a powerful Washington bureaucracy, not to mention the makers and marketers of antibiotics and livestock and poultry farmers.
But Katz may just win in a controversy that’s at least 45 years old, dating back to before the Swann report in the United Kingdom said it’s foolish to keep adding antibiotics to livestock and poultry feeds because it gives free range for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to multiply and then become a threat to human health. Continue reading
From Barry Estabrook, on Politics of the Plate:
“The cynicism of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knows no bounds.
Just before the holidays, the agency, which is supposed to protect Americans’ health,reneged on a 35-year-old pledge to ban farmers from administering low levels (also called subtherapeutic levels) of antibiotics that are used to combat infections in humans to livestock, not to cure disease, but to increase the healthy animals’ growth rates.
The FDA went back on its word during a time when media outlets were short staffed and Americans too focused on last-minute holiday preparations to much about agricultural news. And it made its intentions known quietly in the Federal Register—hardly a volume on the average consumer’s must-read list—without even issuing a press release. Continue reading
From Karen McVeigh in The Guardian U.K.:
“Environmental and consumer groups have condemned the US Food and Drug Administration’s move to renege on its long-held policy to regulate the use of human antibiotics in animal feed.
Last week, the agency quietly announced it was withdrawing its plan to limit the use of antibiotics fed to healthy livestock intended for human consumption.
Critics say the U-turn, which comes amid the FDA’s own stated concerns over food safety, is at odds with its obligations to protect the public. Continue reading