Tuesday, April 15, 2008

PARADE Anti-antibiotics

According to a recent article in ‘Parade’ included in my Sunday paper, “Sens. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R., Maine) introduced a bill to end the practice of feeding antibiotics used to cure human illnesses to chickens, cattle, sheep and pigs.”

Link:“Taking Antibiotics Out of Our Meat” MARCH 2ND 2008

This article is confusing the use of sub-therapeutic feed grade antibiotics with those used to treat human illnesses, or is at least failing to make the distinction clear. It is my understanding that demonstrable rates of gain can be made by adding low levels of antibiotics to feed rations and these antibiotics are not the same drugs used to fight infection in humans.

Most antibiotics used in the livestock industry are used for treating, controlling, and preventing disease. Only 13% are used to improve nutritional efficiency and enhance growth. Despite fears related to antibiotic use in livestock and resistance in humans, no scientific link has been found.

In fact the health consequences of reducing antibiotic use in animals could have far more serious implications. This may sound counter intuitive to what’s reported in the media. However, in Denmark where some feed grade antibiotics have been banned, an increased reliance on therapeutic usage (30%) has resulted because of the increase in animal sickness. The same thing happened in Sweden as well. Let it be known that this increase may also include increased use of drugs that happen to be vital for human health.

Even after reviewing the science behind feed grade antibiotics, if consumers still want ‘antibiotic free’ beef, there is certainly a market for it. However, politicians and activists should not make political ‘hay’ from these interests by promoting feeding regulations that may endanger the health of consumers as a whole, not to mention our environment by mandating less efficient beef production with a larger envrionmental footprint.


Journal of Food Protection, July 2004
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 2003