New numbers are out from the Center for a Livable Future showing that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in a nontherapeutic manner on farm animals.
In 2009, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that 50 million pounds of antibiotics had been used on farms in the two previous years, which accounted for about 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S.
The proportion of antibiotics sold in the United States each year that go to animals turns out to be not 70 percent, but rather 80 percent. Here’s CLF’s Ralph Loglisci, who got the confirmatory numbers from the FDA:
In accordance with a 2008 amendment to the Animal Drug User Fee Act, for the first time the FDA released last week an annual amount of antimicrobial drugs sold and distributed for use in food animals. The grand total for 2009 is 13.1 million kilograms or 28.8 million pounds. I … contacted the FDA for an estimate of the volume of antibiotics sold for human use in 2009. This is what a spokesperson told me:
“Our Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology just finished an analysis based on IMS Health data. Sales data in kilograms sold for selected antibacterial drugs were obtained as a surrogate of human antibacterial drug use in the U.S. market. Approximately 3.3 million kilograms of antibacterial drugs were sold in year 2009. OSE states that all data in this analysis have been cleared for public use by IMS Health, IMS National Sales Perspectives™.”
3.3 million kilograms is a little over 7 million pounds. As far as I can determine, this is the first time the FDA has made data on estimates of human usage public.
Antibiotics are routinely given to healthy animals on farms in a nontherapeutic manner, or before they actually get sick, to compensate for filthy living conditions and to promote growth. The problem with this is animals receiving low doses of antibiotics on a regular basis are like walking petri dishes for bacterial growth that can result in antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
The problem that follows is that these antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria can be spread to other animals, and to us by eating and handling meat and dairy products, along with other fruits and vegetables or by being exposed to water supplies that have been tainted by manure in the forms of fertilizer and runoff.
Our livestock industry is growing something our medicine doesn’t stand a chance against, and we’re all susceptible to it whether we eat meat or not.
In 2009, Rep Louise Slaughter introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which would result in phasing out the use of antibiotics on livestock, unless they’re being used to treat sick animals, along with providing funding for institutions who want to work with producers on this cause.
“This report illustrates the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production and makes a strong case for some common-sense limits on antibiotic use. We are putting millions of pounds of antibiotics into the food supply unnecessarily every year. This cannot continue and it’s my hope that these new data from the FDA will encourage even more members of Congress to join me next year when I reintroduce this legislation. Moreover, the FDA must move fast to issue strong regulations on antibiotic usage in agriculture,” said Slaughter.