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Why Are Antibiotics Still Used in Livestock?

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Why Are Antibiotics Still Used in Livestock?

Photo Courtesy Of:  Hemera/Thinkstock

On December 22, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quietly posted a notice in the Federal Register that it was effectively reneging on its plan to reduce the use of antibiotics in agricultural animal feed – a plan it has been touting since 1977.

Now, with virtually no public announcement, the FDA has decided it will continue to allow livestock producers to use the drugs in feed, unabated; a move that is threatening food safety by contributing to the spread of new, antibiotic-resistant “super-germs.”

FDA Reverses its 30-Year-Old Promise to Get Antibiotics Out of Animal Feed

According to the Federal Register, dated December 22, 2011:

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or the Agency) is withdrawing two 1977 notices of opportunity for a hearing (NOOH), which proposed to withdraw certain approved uses of penicillin and tetracyclines intended for use in feeds for food-producing animals based in part on microbial food safety concerns.”

For those who aren’t aware, about 80 percent of all the antibiotics produced are used in agriculture — not only to fight infection, but  to promote unhealthy (though profitable) weight gain.

As stated by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs:

“Continuous, low-dose administration of an antibiotic can increase the rate and efficiency of weight gain in healthy livestock. The presence of antibiotics likely changes the composition of the gut flora to favor growth. Debate is ongoing as to how gut flora are changed; change may simply be a reduction in numbers, a change in species composition or a combination of the two.… Some antibiotics may also enhance feed consumption and growth by stimulating metabolic processes within the animal.”

Unfortunately, this practice is also contributing to the alarming spread of antibiotic-resistant disease – a serious problem that the FDA acknowledged in a 2010 draft guidance, which also proposed that livestock producers STOP using “subtherapeutic,” small doses of antibiotics in animal feed:

“Antimicrobial drugs have been widely used in human and veterinary medicine for more than 50 years … The development of resistance to this important class of drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness as antimicrobial therapies, poses a serious public health threat.

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs creates selective evolutionary pressure that enables antimicrobial resistant bacteria to increase in numbers more rapidly than antimicrobial susceptible bacteria and thus increases the opportunity for individuals to become infected by resistant bacteria. Because antimicrobial drug use contributes to the emergence of drug resistant organisms, these important drugs must be used judiciously in both animal and human medicine to slow the development of resistance.”

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Dr. Mercola

Dr. Mercola has been passionate about health and technology for most of his life. As a doctor of osteopathic medicine, he treated many thousands of patients for over 20 years. In the mid 90’s he integrated his passion for natural health with modern technology via the internet and developed a website, Mercola.com to spread the word about natural ways to achieve optimal health.

42 comments

+ add your own
9:03AM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

stop killing and consuming flesh! You are killing yourselves and killing that planet. Not to mention...you are making this planet horrific, saddest place to be with all the abuses on "farm" animals for the rest of us!!! We have had enough.

Twenty years ago it was the "protein deficiency" myth. Now that the protein myth has been completely discredited (human breast milk is only 5% protein, and it is estimated that adult humans only need 2-3% protein in their daily diet), these days the vitamin B12 myth occasionally surfaces. Usually it's only preached in places like very old doctors' offices or talk radio shows dominated by heavy recommendations for drugs, meat and dairy products.

facts are: We dont need meat to survive -extensive research has long proven all that... Its an addiction, all about taste, texture, aroma etc and nothing else..
percentage of meat to percentage of veggies needs to be quite small to be healthy for meateaters, excessive consumption of meat, processed foods are poison, most vitamins and nutrition comes from bacteria, Vegetable proteins sources are abundantly available in the vegetarian diet . Beans have more protein than most meat...

Monoculture, factory farming are the most pollutive and destructive ways to get food, pharmaceutical drugs and now GMO, are deadly for everything.

and being narrowminded is silly and boring.. PLEASE EVOLVE!

9:02AM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

stop killing and consuming flesh! You are killing yourselves and killing that planet. Not to mention...you are making this planet horrific, saddest place to be with all the abuses on "farm" animals for the rest of us!!! We have had enough.

Twenty years ago it was the "protein deficiency" myth. Now that the protein myth has been completely discredited (human breast milk is only 5% protein, and it is estimated that adult humans only need 2-3% protein in their daily diet), these days the vitamin B12 myth occasionally surfaces. Usually it's only preached in places like very old doctors' offices or talk radio shows dominated by heavy recommendations for drugs, meat and dairy products.

facts are: We dont need meat to survive -extensive research has long proven all that... Its an addiction, all about taste, texture, aroma etc and nothing else..
percentage of meat to percentage of veggies needs to be quite small to be healthy for meateaters, excessive consumption of meat, processed foods are poison, most vitamins and nutrition comes from bacteria, Vegetable proteins sources are abundantly available in the vegetarian diet . Beans have more protein than most meat...

Monoculture, factory farming are the most pollutive and destructive ways to get food, pharmaceutical drugs and now GMO, are deadly for everything.

and being narrowminded is silly and boring.. PLEASE EVOLVE!

6:46AM PDT on Mar 29, 2012

Long story short - because demand to eat animals and animal products is still high.

9:46PM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

Sigh. Same ol' story. At least Dr. Mercola gave us a paragraph or two on what we can do.

8:45PM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

It is sort of ironic how we demand the end of CAFOs and the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, but yet we vaccinate our children with everything under the sun so they can be herded into confined classrooms. To expect all have access to "Organic Food" would be equivalent of home schooling all children and insist doctors do only house calls!!!

6:09PM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

:-(

3:57PM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

3:55PM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

I want the animals to be raised naturally without artificial means. The animals are happier and healthier without drugs.

3:33PM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

Larry J.... your information is incorrect.
Organic farmers have ridged laws. and have inspections every year.
When the animals are raised in small area's, and fed the wrong food for them, live in buildings, they get sick easier and faster.
They belong out side with shelters in bad weather. Example .. cows eat grass they eat it because of the bacteria that lives on it. They do not eat corn. Part of the issues of gas from cows is the wrong foods they are fed...gives them more gas. Some large farm factories feed feces to their animals...most farm animals do not feces. There seems to be so much of this, that there is bacteria that live on it in human body's now.

Organic raised food is the safest you can get. The most of the people that raise there food organically are concerned for their families and others.

3:23PM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

Larry J.... your information is incorrect.
Organic farmers have ridged laws. and have inspections every year.
When the animals are raised in small area's, and fed the wrong food for them, live in buildings, they get sick easier and faster.
They belong out side with shelters in bad weather. Example .. cows eat grass they eat it because of the bacteria that lives on it. They do not eat corn. Part of the issues of gas from cows is the wrong foods they are fed...gives them more gas. Some large farm factories feed feces to their animals...most farm animals do not feces. There seems to be so much of this, that there is bacteria that live on it in human body's now.

Organic raised food is the safest you can get. The most of the people that raise there food organically are concerned for their families and others.

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