Antibiotics Don’t Stand a Chance Against Superbugs

 

In early August,†Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey from its Springdale, Arkansas plant. In September the company recalled another 185,000 pounds from the same plant. In both cases, the FDA found meat tainted with salmonella Heidelberg, a bacteria resistant to antibiotics currently available.

Superbugs that can fight off antibiotics the way superheroes fight off villains used to be fodder for science fiction. Not any more. The World Health Organization reports that 25,000 people a year die of antibiotic-resistant infections just in the European Union.

Since antibiotics arrived on the scene and took much of the fear out of diseases such as scarlet fever, they have become the darling of patients and doctors alike. After years of ignoring warnings that bacteria mutate, those who prescribe antibiotics and those who take them are in for some rude shocks. A new class of superbugs is on the attack, and antibiotic development is not keeping up with them.

It is no wonder. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated in 2009 that 70 percent of U.S. antibiotics were used on farms. Last December the Center for a Livable Future increased that estimate to 80 percent. As it turns out, no one outside industry is minding the shop. In September 2011, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report that took HHS (Health and Human Services), FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) to task for inadequate assessment and oversight.

Industry responded quickly. The National Pork Producers Council insisted, “Not only is there no scientific study linking antibiotic use in food animals to antibiotic resistance in humans, as the U.S. pork industry has continually pointed out, but there isnít even adequate data to conduct a study.”

Tell that to the team of researchers from Denmark, Australia and Canada whose study appears in the September 2011 issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. They conclude:

“Resistance in E. coli isolates from food animals (especially poultry and pigs) was highly correlated with resistance in isolates from humans. This supports the hypothesis that a large proportion of resistant E. coli isolates causing blood stream infections in people may be derived from food sources.”

Last week meetings in Chicago and in Baku, Azerbaijan heard a message that should have been heeded years ago: overuse of antibiotics is threatening world health and must be curtailed.

Factory farming of animals means crowded and unsanitary conditions. Animal health and animal growth are pushed through antibiotics instead of through humane, sustainable practices. Human health is threatened because we cannot assume antibiotics will be effective when diseases strike.

The jury is no longer out. It has reached a verdict. Consumers have choices and can exercise them with every visit to the grocery store.

Related Care2 Stories

Cargill Recalls Ground Turkey, Again

Drug Resistant Salmonella in Ground Turkey

80 Percent of Antibiotics in the U.S. Go to Farm Animals

 

 

First Photo from Erling A via Flickr Creative Commons, Second Photo from Alex E. Proimos via Flickr Creative Commons

75 comments

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.4 years ago

thank you

Faith Billingham
Faith Billingham4 years ago

thank you for this article

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 years ago

Signed the petition.

BLANC Michelle
Michelle BLANC4 years ago

Quand les consommateurs comprendront ils que manger de la viande est très mauvais pour la santé vu que les animaux vivant en élevages industriels, sont bourrés d'antibiotiques pour éviter les contaminations, et qu'à force de manger de la viande, nous sommes devenus et devenons de plus en plus résistants aux antibiotiques et une simple maladie peut avoir des conséquences catastrophiques car le corps bourré d'antibiotiques , ne réagira plus à ces mollécules.Réduisez au maximum votre consommation de viande, vous vivrez en meilleure santé et vous épargnerez à tous les animaux dits de consommation des souffrances atroces dans ces usines de batteries où aucun animal n'est respecté.On peut très bien avoir d'autres sources de protéines que la viande d'animaux morts.

Seabert B.
Seabert B.4 years ago

what van I say that has not been said. Peace Out

Lynn C.
Lynn C.4 years ago

This is one of the reasons I avoid eating meat, but way too many still do and perpetuate the ongoing factory farming. Certainly this government isn't going to buck the system and put Eli Lily, etc., out of business, so they won't be regulating this and the GM stuff either.

Kate Kenner
Kate Kenner4 years ago

If anything antibiotics will lower the resistance to disease. They kill not only bad germs but the good ones. The best solution is to never have factory farms again but sadly that isn't happening any time soon. I would bet that these problems didn't happen when there were just small farms. Factory farms are rife with cruelty and vulnerable to infections and diseases. If these scientists and pharmaceutical companies as well as the scum who run these humongous farms were so smart they would have figured it out that antibiotics are meant to fight infection and disease (and not all the time), not to prevent it. Again I say for the hundredth time, human intelligence is an oxymoron.

John Abraham
John Abraham4 years ago

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated in 2009 that 70 percent of U.S. antibiotics were used on farms. Last December the Center for a Livable Future increased that estimate to 80 percent. As it turns out, no one outside industry is minding the shop. In September 2011, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report that took HHS (Health and Human Services), FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) to task for inadequate assessment and oversight.

April Thompson
April Thompson4 years ago

Only for illness!

Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon4 years ago

Another good argument in favor of enjoying vegetarian cuisine.

We have this growing problem with the results of the overuse of antibiotics with other species as well as with human beings. This is going to get worse.