Antibiotics that are used in livestock may be becoming increasingly dangerous to public health. Animal antibiotics are heavily used in the meat and poultry industry, yet not necessarily with the goal to prevent or cure diseases on animals. The use of antibiotics in livestock is popular among farmers because it enhances fast growth and at the same time keeps the price of meat and poultry low. New insights, however, highlight the danger that this meat may present to U.S. population.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has released a new report, claiming the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified serious dangers in several animal antibiotics. Despite this, no serious actions were taken by the FDA so far. The report shows that the FDA tested a list of antibiotic feed additive,s and out of the 30 tested antibiotics that are used in livestock, 26 failed to meet the safety standards. The safety standards were initially set in 1973 and updated in 2003. Many are concerned that since the FDA is not taking action against it, the dangers of antibiotics used in livestock are putting public health at higher risk every single day.
The heavy use of animal antibiotics can cause bacteria to become resistant to the drug, resulting in animal diseases that are difficult to cure with existing medicine. In fact, more than half of all meat and poultry in the U.S. contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This may not only be dangerous to animals, but also humans who consume infected meat and poultry. Some believe that this is a significant danger to public health. In addition, people can get sick from infected meat and poultry by a single use, meaning it is not only the frequent meat and poultry consumer that is at risk.
Every year, over two million American citizens are affected by antibiotic-resistant infections and the meat and poultry industry arguably have a fair share in this. In the past, diseases like the bird flu and E.coli have badly affected thousands of people, also causing numerous deaths. The new report from the NRDC indicates that a similar or even worse situation in the future is a distinct possibility unless the FDA takes action to protect public health from the dangers in animal antibiotics right now.
To ban dangerous animal antibiotics, however, it is the manufacturer of the medicine rather than the farmer that holds the highest level of responsibility in this issue. Even though the farmer is making use of these antibiotics, he is not the primary source of them. According to the NRDC, the FDA has requested one of the manufacturers to discontinue its production and sale after its antibiotics failed to meet the safety standards. This has not seemed to significantly impact the manufacturer, as the production and sale of the product continues until this day. In addition, the FDA did not check whether the manufacturer has followed-up on their request, and the antibiotic currently remains on the market and is still used in livestock. Other manufacturers of antibiotics that appeared to be a danger to public health were reportedly able to justify their product by providing an additional antibiotic to cure the resistant bacteria.
With this being acceptable to the FDA, critics fear that the dangers of the meat and poultry industry has become a never-ending cycle. Animal antibiotics used to enhance growth are already banned in Europe, but in the US, the use of antibiotics in livestock may still be a dangerous risk to public health.
By Diana Herst