The increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria has been causing growing concern. A recent review study implicates the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals.
Do you prefer the drumstick or are you a breast meat fan? Either way, you could be ingesting far more than you bargained for in your poultry as well as your beef, pork, or farmed fish. Antibiotics are routinely given to livestock to promote growth, prevent disease, and treat illness.
And there is growing concern about the relationship between this routine use of antibiotics in the food animals we consume and the prevalence of antibiotic resistant organisms, or “superbugs” (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites) in our environment.
Though the possible causes have been studied over a number of years, a recent review study by researchers from Tufts University school of Medicine has fingered the nontherapeutic use (i.e. other than to treat illness) of antibiotics in food animals and fish farming as the biggest culprit.
And according to a position paper authored by some of the researchers, “the administration of antibiotics in low doses over long periods of time is one of the strongest selective pressures leading to emergence of resistant bacteria.” The researchers also said that antibiotics are eight times more likely to be used for nontherapeutic purposes than for treating a sick animal.
The antibiotics in your turkey aren’t just a threat as you eat that drumstick. According to the study authors, “... 90 percent of livestock antibiotics are excreted into the environment with resistance spreading directly by contact and indirectly through the food chain, water, air, and manured and sludge-fertilized soils.”
Though the World Health Organization (WHO) says drug use in farm animals plays a significant role in spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the European Union is phasing out nontherapeutic antibiotic use in livestock, the same is not true in Canada.
What can we do?