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Antibiotics in Feed Spur Resistance

January 02, 2008 | 12,081 views

The use of antibiotics in livestock feed contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance in humans. The meat industry practice is a "driving force" behind the development of antibiotic resistance in certain species of bacteria that cause human disease.

The major purpose of giving antibiotics to cows, sheep, and other livestock is to promote growth. Animals receiving antibiotics in their feed gain 4% to 5% more body weight than animals that do not receive antibiotics. The antibiotic-resistant bacteria that develop can easily be transmitted to humans through meat or through human contact with living animals.

In some cases, antibiotic resistance is making it difficult for physicians to treat disease. For example, some strains of Salmonella bacteria, which can be transmitted to humans through food or contact with animals, are now resistant to commonly used antibiotics.

Last year, the World Health Organization recommended that antibiotics should not be used as growth promoters in animals if there is a risk that humans will develop resistance. However, a UK commission reached the same conclusion in 1969, and that the meat industry has been debating it ever since.

Certainly there are financial incentives for the meat industry to continue using antibiotics as growth promoters. However, Sweden has prohibited this practice since 1986, and they observed that improved hygiene has recouped the productivity losses.

Science (1998;279:996-997

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

Most of you probably knew this information already. It is just nice to see it documented in some of the top journals. One does not have to wait for the government to ban this practice. If you purchase organic meat you will avoid this problem.

There are also many new brands that implement this practice. If you live in the Chicago area, Dominick's carries Laura's Beef which is antibiotic and growth hormone free. However, it is not organic as the animals are not fed organic food, yet it remains a better choice than conventional beef.

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