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Antibiotics in Food

According to DeNoon (2012), 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals.

This has raised concerns about the development of superbugs – bacteria that have evolved a resistance to antibiotics due to constant low-level exposure. Because these germs can’t easily be killed with antibiotics, they are more likely to have fatal consequences.

Many organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), consider the development of drug-resistant bacteria to be among the greatest major health threats in the world.

Farm animals are given antibiotics for a couple of reasons. The first is that when animals are housed in crowded industrial farms and fed an unnatural grain-based diet, they are at greater risk for infections, abscesses, and ulcers, so the whole herd is often given antibiotics in their feed as a preventative. Another reason is that antibiotics make the animals grow faster, fulfilling a demand for cheap meat.

When animals are regularly given low doses of antibiotics, drug-resistant germs develop and these can then spread to people. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria contribute to the deaths of over 60,000 people in the United States per year (Roosevelt/Grandview, 2006). A 2001 study found that 84% of salmonella bacteria in supermarket ground beef was antibiotic-resistant, and an estimated 11,000 people suffered intestinal illnesses due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chicken during 1999 alone (Hoffman, 2008).

According to survey conducted by Consumer Reports (2012), 86% believe that antibiotic-free meats should be available in their local supermarkets. Although many people oppose regular antibiotic use in farming, industrial agricultural and pharmaceutical interests have resisted ending the practice.

For those who don’t want to consume antibiotics or contribute to the development of superbugs, organic is a safe choice because the use of antibiotics is not permitted in organic farming.

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