Antibiotics in Meat: Are We Raising Super Bugs?

Antibiotics in Meat: Are We Raising Super Bugs?

Most of us are vaguely aware that meat manufacturers feed healthy animals with antibiotics and other drugs. In fact, 80 percents of antibiotics produced in the US are not used to cure diseases. The drugs are given to healthy animals, in small doses, to prevent diseases. Fed with antibiotics, animals grow much faster and larger, an added bonus for the meat manufacturers. But what about us? What does it mean when we eat antibiotics when we are healthy, through our everyday dinner?

Super-bugs are on the way

The use of antibiotics for animals has been common since the 50s, and many antibiotics that are used by humans have been approved by the FDA for the use in animals. While scientists and consumer advocates are showing concern about the potential consequences of this, meat manufacturers are convinced, and are trying to convince us, that the practice is harmless to humans.

One of the biggest concerns is that the overuse of antibiotics is encouraging the evolution of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Case study reported by the Princeton University shows what happened to the wide spectrum and popular antibiotic Cipro:

Cipro is best known for the treatment of Campylobacter bacteria, which cause food poisoning that can have serious consequences such as arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome. About 2.4 million Americans are infected by Campylobacter every year and 100 of them die from the infection. In 1996, the FDA approved the use on chicken of an antibiotic similar to Cipro. Five years later, 19 percents of humans showed resistance to Cipro. There was almost no resistance to this antibiotic before 1996.

If you thought that you could get rid of antibiotics in the meat by processing it, think again. The research shows that normal heating, such as in cooking, does not deactivate antibiotics.

What can we do?

Consumer Union conducted a survey of over 1000 people as part of their campaign for drug-free meat. The results of the survey show that most of us, actually 66 percent of interviewed people, would rather have meat without antibiotics and would accept slightly higher price for it. Some larger food chains (Giant, Hannaford, Shaw’s and Stop & Shop) offer choice of meat labeled as antibiotics free. The only one that sells only drug-free meat is Whole Food.

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