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Rethinking Antibiotic in Animal Feed

The practice of mixing antibiotics in animal feed to make livestock, pigs and chickens gain weight and become more resistant to disease has been criticized for years. This is a problem both in this country as well as in the United States of America. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is looked upon as a global yardstick for good practices, they have come under a lot of fire for allowing this situation to escalate without proper governance. Health experts contend that this overuse of antibiotics has led to an increase of germs, such as Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), that are growing increasingly resistant to antibiotics, threatening human health.

A couple of good reads on how to shop in the supermarkets and to learn how to read the labels would be: Eating Between the LinesRead It Before You Eat It and The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods.


Just earlier in June of 2012 , Reuters reported that a U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz in New York said the FDA had done “shockingly little” to address the human health risks of antibiotic use in animal feed and ordered the agency to reconsider two petitions seeking restrictions on the practice.

The ruling, and latest lawsuit brought by environmental and public-health groups, is the second recent setback for the FDA amid long-standing concern that overuse of antibiotics in animal feed is endangering human health by creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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In 1946, producers discovered that adding antibiotics to feed increased animal growth and industry profits. This subtherapeutic dosing also allowed livestock to survive filthy, overcrowded conditions that would otherwise generate high and unprofitable rates of disease and death.

Antibiotics work by targeting specific bacteria, but they can leave the field open for resistant strains. CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in fact generate resistant bacteria, and then spread them through workers, flies, soil, air, water and, of course, food. Strains of dangerous pathogens such as strep, MRSA, tuberculosis, pneumonia and salmonella are increasingly impervious to common, inexpensive antibiotics.

New bacterial strains linked to these CAFOs are endemic in hospitals. An estimated 2 million Americans become sick, and 100K die annually, from hospital-acquired infections, the majority of which result from such resistant strains. Treating resistant diseases costs $16-26 billion in annual medical expenses and $35 billion in lost work time, which is a massive waste of resources.

Judge Katz’s latest ruling adds fuel an intensifying legal war over the future use of antibiotics to promote animal growth, increase feed efficiency and disease prevention on food-producing livestock. The ruling also highlights the potential for future shifts in federal regulations over animal agriculture practices. Such changes could force beef, pork and poultry producers to buy more grain and find other ways to fatten animals prior to slaughter.

Critics of antibiotics in animal feed called the ruling a victory in an increasingly contentious fight. So if Malaysia is around 5 years behind the United States FDA in passing legislation, then that means that things will start to filter down in the new future. Or so we hope. Yes, learning to read labels is an important thing in the supermarkets. Many are opting for organic/antibiotic free poultry but how much control really do we have over what we eat outside in the restaurants or coffee shops? How much of a premium are we willing to pay for our groceries? Let’s hope that for the sake of our future generations, our country’s regulations over animal agriculture practices will mandate that antibiotic use in animal feed be abolished once and for all.

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