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Antibiotics In Meat

Updated on November 14, 2014

We all shop for meat. This country is a meat loving place and vegetarianism still has to form a solid base. We have heard of food borne illnesses that wreak havoc on our health. Most of these diseases come form meat that we eat at the dinner table. Doctor Oz mentioned that 80% of antibiotics sold go to meat. Around 2 million Americans become ill each year due to anti-resistant bacteria. Because of this, most people have infections such as Urinary Tract Infection, skin infection, and food borne illnesses that can't be cured by antibiotics. The use of antibiotics in meat have been banned in Europe. The Center for Disease Control has told the meat industry to reduce the significant amount of antibiotics injected in meat. So far, The FDA has only issued voluntary guidelines.

Michael Hansen PhD, a senior scientist explained that a small amount of antibiotics is used for disease treatment, but a huge amount is used for growth promotion and disease prevention.. Dr. Oz described that the meat that we eat such as pork, the antibiotics that are added to the food that the pork eats makes the animal larger. The antibiotics get into the animal and they kill off the good bacteria inside the animal. The bad bacteria or the resistant bacteria stays and gets into the meat. They are passed on from hand to hand, to our shelves, to our kitchen, and to our kids. When we eat the meat, these bad bacteria can cause skin infection, UTI, and food borne illness. They are difficult to treat because regular antibiotics can't work against them.

As consumers, we can't help but raise the question, could antibiotics in meat lead to the next superbug? Allan Greene, a pediatrician says that these infections or superbugs can be impossible to treat. The bacteria can spread resistance among themselves. Most bacteria that cause infections in humans are more resistant than they used to be. This is a public health threat. The antibiotics used in growing the animal should be outlawed. They are injected by people who are not veterinarians or don't have the proper training in handling the antibiotics. Dr. Hansen added that it could get to the point where certain bacteria could become resistant to antibiotics. Dr. Greene mentioned that children are the most vulnerable because they are still developing their immune system. They get infections more often and they need more antibiotics than ever before.

Dr. Oz raised a question to these doctors. He asked why the use of antibiotics in animals banned in Europe and South Korea, but why isn't it banned here. Hansen mentioned that it's all because of the power of the drug industry. Back in 1977, the FDA said that penicillin that are put in animal feed is not safe and should be banned. The drug industry intervened and stopped the FDA from doing anything. Thirty-seven years later, these drugs are still used for growth promotion and disease prevention.

Dr. Hansen advised the viewers to be on the look out for specific products that contain antibiotics. In 2011, the USDA National Antibiotic Resistant Monitoring System released a report stating that 81 % of ground turkey, 69% of pork chops, 55% of ground beef, and 39% of chicken parts have antibiotic resistant bacteria in them.

The USDA has released a statement regarding this matter. They said that they don't mandate that labels state whether or not meat or poultry has been administered antibiotics. The question on most people's minds is how can we tell that the meat that we buy has antibiotics. Hansen said we should look for meat that has an organic label or no antibiotics administered labels on the product. We should check if the meat is USDA process verified. This means that there is an independent third party that verified that no antibiotics have been used to treat animals. Dr. Greene suggested that we should change our mindset when it comes to meat. When we bring meat or poultry into the table, consider it contaminated until it is thoroughly cooked. This means disinfecting countertops and cutting boards. Washing your hands after you touch the meat or choose meat and poultry that is labeled organic or not treated with antibiotics.

The FDA issued a statement regarding this matter. They said they are currently working with drug manufacturers to phase out the use of medically important microbials for food production purposes and phase in the oversight of a veterinarian for the remaining therapeutic uses of such drugs. Once this is complete, it will be illegal to use these antibiotics for growth promotion purposes.

Too much of a good thing is bad. Carnivores like most of us should consume meat sparingly and incorporate more vegetables and grains into our diet. Antibiotics are used to treat diseases. Unfortunately, these are used for animals to grow bigger. We hope that this practice should be outlawed. The health of consumers is more vital than making the animals bigger.


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