Scientists working to educate public about importance of antibiotic-free food
Kendra Pierson has an appetite for all the best for her growing family.
She explains, “I have two boys who are 6 and 10, and so they’re really in that growing and developmental stage, so it’s important that I give them strong, healthy foods that feed their bodies.”
For her, that means finding foods created without antibiotics, which have been used routinely by ranchers and farmers for decades for disease prevention.
“Chicken, beef, lamb, almost any meat that you can buy, is likely to have antibiotics, unless it’s specified that it doesn’t,” says Dr. Martin Makary, a professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Critics blame use of these medicines for the rise in superbugs, and there’s some science behind their concerns.
“The World Health Organization has identified antibiotic resistant organisms to be the number one future public health threat in the world,” says Dr. Makary.
Dr. Makary is now calling on fellow physicians to lead the charge against antibiotics in food. He published an article in the Journal of Antibiotics about it.
According to the CDC, agricultural antibiotic use is responsible for about 20% of resistant infections in humans.
“We need to start blowing the whistle and saying if we don’t do something about this now, we’re going to witness an entire generation of infections that is going to be resistant to everything we have out there,” says Dr. Makary.
He explains, “We are now at a crossing point where we simply cannot produce new antibiotics fast enough to keep up with the growing resistance of bugs. Pediatricians are already prescribing kids with ear infections where sometimes we have to watch the infection play out and the kids suffer with the infection because nothing that we have works anymore. The bugs are resistant in surgery. We see cases where infections of the colon can only be treated with some drastic therapies, like removing the entire colon, simply because the infection is resistant to almost everything we have or everything we have.”
We called the North American Meat Institute and were told “…farmers follow strict FDA mandates when an animal is treated to ensure safety.”
The organization adds: USDA testing finds “no residues of concern in meat product more than 99-percent of the time.”
The Institute also tells us “it’s worth noting that the CDC has said that the number one contributor to antibiotic resistance is overuse among humans and we certainly hope that … Johns Hopkins will look even more closely at that issue.”
Dr. Makary strongly disagrees and says the routine use of antibiotics in farm animals for disease prevention should be banned worldwide.
“It’s time that we use the same energy we used to educate the public about smoking to talk about antibiotics and food,” explains Dr. Makary.
And he says consumers can take a stand by only purchasing antibiotic-free foods.
That’s what Kendra tries to do. She says, “Given a choice between the antibiotic-free and the regular meat, I’m going to always choose antibiotic-free.”
The North American Meat Institute says, “Antibiotics are sometimes used in livestock production – but never in meat production.”
The Institute also points out that The Center for Disease Control and Prevention report Antibiotic Resistant Threats in the United States 2013 said that the number one contributing factor to the development of antimicrobial resistance is overuse in humans, though CDC emphasized the need for good antibiotic stewardship among livestock and poultry farmers as well.