Some may think the medical profession industry is the top user of antibiotics in the United States but they would be wrong. Surprisingly, the major user of antibiotics is the meat and poultry industry. According to www.consumerreports.org, “some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used not on people but on animals, to make them grow faster or to prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary conditions.” This is not only a huge problem for the animals being injected but also for the humans that are consuming the meat. When meat consumers are ingesting antibiotic filled meat, they are putting their bodies at risk for building immunity to an array of antibiotics. This creates a problem when a person needs a particular antibiotic to cure a bacterial infection but is unable to see results due to that immunity build up I mentioned previously. We must come together to help eliminate the future overuse of antibiotics in animals by spreading awareness of what is actually happening.
Some may think that by only spreading awareness of this topic it couldn’t possibly create significant change, but FDA (Food and Drug Administration) would strongly disagree. The FDA believes that a collaborative approach is the fastest way to implement the changes the general public would like to see. They are currently working with stakeholders, including animal pharmaceutical companies, to encourage their cooperation on this important public health issue. By informing people that an overuse of antibiotics is real and is causing major health related issues we can help eliminate future issues. Another way the FDA is trying to help this horrific situation is by their multiple step-by-step process for the creation of antibiotics used on livestock animals. The process includes the following steps, “Once the antimicrobial drug sponsor has tested the drug for safety and effectiveness, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) reviews the sponsor’s testing results and decides whether the approval requirements are met. If they are, the sponsor submits an application for approval to CVM, including all information about the drug and the proposed label. The sponsor can legally sell the antimicrobial drug if, upon review, the CVM agrees that the drug is safe and effective.” (U.S. FDA, 2014a) The intention of this process is to help eliminate future health concerns for consumers.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) draws major attention to its organization by explaining the dangers animal antibiotics pose on humans. The article titled “Combating Antibiotic Resistance with Surveillance” goes on about how illnesses that were once easily treatable with antibiotics are becoming more difficult to cure and more expensive to treat. They go on to inform us that each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. One of the main suggestions the CDC gives for the general public is reading labels and packaging of the meat you’ll be consuming to find out where and how it may have been processed.
I’m sure at this point you’re wondering why the use of antibiotics in animals is even a situation we are dealing with. In theory the idea of antibiotics used on livestock is to treat diseased animals and to prevent disease in a high-risk environment. However, what is actually happening is it’s being used to put weight (meat) on animals for a profit gain. As the National Academic of Sciences Engineering Medicine says, “Small doses of antibiotics administered daily would make most animals gain as much as 3 percent more weight than they otherwise would. In an industry where profits are measured in pennies per animal, such weight gain was revolutionary.” This is one of the main reasons why it’s been such a struggle for people to get ranchers and farmers to stop the administration of antibiotics to their animals.
The WHO (World Health Organization) has also expressed its concern about antibiotic resistance and has suggested stopping the use of antibiotics in animals that meat consumers eat. They recently declared their intention to, “reduce the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in food animals for the protection of human health.” They are basically suggesting that prescriptions be required for any and all antibiotics that will be used to treat livestock animals. They are hoping in return this will lower the risk a consumer eating meat would have at building an immunity to any certain antibiotics. Another interesting point the WHO brings up is, “Concern about the growing level of drug-resistant bacteria has led to the banning of sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in meat animals in many countries in the European Union and Canada. In the United States, however, such use is still legal.” Knowing other countries have listened and created change should give hope that eventually the United States will too.
Another reason factory farmers are able to get away with administering antibiotics to their animals is spinning the alternative in a way that is appealing to meat consumers. If factory farm owners lower or stop the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotic in animal production it could have serious economic effects on the meat and poultry industry. According to a report released by USDA’s Economic Research Service, “discontinuing the use of antimicrobial drugs in production would initially decrease feed efficiency, raise food costs, reduce production and raise prices to consumers.” Their theory is by telling meat consumers their prices could raise the consumers would then ignore any possible negative repercussions to their health. However, the USDA explains, “86% of consumers would like the ability to buy meat raised without antibiotics at the local supermarket. Of those people, 60% would be willing to pay and additional $0.05 per pound for meat raised without antibiotics and 37% were willing to pay an additional dollar per pound.” This goes to show that it is important to the general public and the more we know the more power we will have to create change.
In conclusion, we must come together to help eliminate the future overuse of antibiotics in animals by spreading awareness of what is actually happening. I know it can seem extremely insignificant to just use our voice to create such an important change in the way our meat is treated but it is our best shot. The public has been in the dark for too long and factory farmers have been able to get away with these practices for many years without repercussions. It’s time to put an end to these practices the way other countries have done for their people and create a healthier future for animals and consumers alike.
Medicine, Center For Veterinary. “Guidance for Industry – FDA’s Strategy on Antimicrobial Resistance – Questions and Answers.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page. Center for Veterinary Medicine, n.d. Web. 01 June 2017.
Henneberger, Melinda. “Feeding Antibiotics to Livestock Is Bad for Humans, but Congress Won’t Stop It, New Report Says.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 22 Oct. 2013. Web. 01 June 2017.
“National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System for Enteric Bacteria (NARMS).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Dec. 2016. Web. 01 June 2017.
Sneeringer, Stacy, James MacDonald, Nigel Key, William McBride, and Ken Mathews. “Economics of Antibiotic Use in U.S. Livestock Production.” Economic Research Service. N.p., Nov. 2015. Web. 6 June 2017.