Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Old Macdonald Has Too Many Antibiotics

A story written by Sabrina Tavernise that appeared in the New York Times on July 30, 2013, reports on a study being conducted in Flagstaff, Arizona to determine how many people in one American city are getting urinary infections from meat from the grocery store.

Lance Price, a microbiologist at George Washington University has done his research on antibiotics at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix.  Dr. Price has been sounding the alarm about antibiotic resistance for a number of years.  He recently told a Congressional committee that evidence of the ill effects of antibiotics in farming was overwhelming.

He thinks the FDA's efforts to limit antibiotic use on farms have been weak.  In 1977 (36 years ago!) the FDA said it would begin to ban some agricultural uses of antibiotics.  But the House and Senate appropriations committees - dominated by agricultural interests - passed resolutions against the ban, and the FDA retreated.  Surprise, surprise.

David White, Ph.D., is the chief science officer in FDA’s Office of Food and Veterinary Medicine.  The following is a quote from the FDA article titled "Fighting the Impact of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria."

The fundamental concern over the agricultural use of antibiotics arises from the potential that resistant bacterial strains can be transferred to humans via direct contact, or ingestion of food derived from treated animals. This is a legitimate concern as epidemiological and microbiological data show that resistant bacteria from food animals can reach humans via the food supply. And most classes of antimicrobials used in animals have human counterparts. Therefore, resistance to an animal drug might translate into resistance to a human drug.

Antibiotics are given to animals for various reasons, including: 1) treatment of sick animals; 2) prevention of illness in healthy animals; and 3) control of disease in a group of animals when some in the group show overt signs of disease.

Antibiotics are also used to improve feed efficiency and weight gain in healthy animals, a practice the FDA has been working to change. In 2012, FDA released a guidance document for the animal health and animal agriculture industries that focuses on two primary principles: 1) limiting medically important antimicrobial drugs to uses in food-producing animals that are considered necessary for assuring animal health; and 2) limiting such drugs to uses in food-producing animals that include veterinary oversight or consultation. We think that this voluntary approach will move us forward in the quickest way possible, and it doesn't rule out future regulation.

Another example of how our government cares more about protecting the providers of food than the consumers of food.  Apparently, the FDA, after decades of studies showing that eating meat from animals fed antibiotics is a factor in antibiotic resistance, still feels that "voluntary" compliance is the way to go.

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