by Linda Dulicai
It is fairly common knowledge by now that in the United States, most animals used for meat are treated with antibiotics, and not just for illness. Animals raised for meat are given antibiotics to make them meatier. It has been done for decades, and there’s no indication the practice will stop anytime soon, though consumers and activists have been raging about it. The hope is the United States will wake up at some point and at least cut down on using medication to promote growth in meat production.
Antibiotics administered to animals for growth purposes are done so on what’s called a “sub-therapeutic” level. This means the amounts administered don’t match the amounts that would be given if the animal were sick. However, even that amount affects the consumer. After a time, consumers and pathogens can become antibiotic resistant.
Why does that matter?
Jane Black of Prevention writes, “Calls to curb the use of antibiotics in agriculture are growing louder the world over, with many experts concerned that we're careening toward a global public health crisis brought on by bacteria that do not respond to antibiotics. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, has said that if we don't change course, we could soon live in a world where ‘things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill.’”
The challenge is and will always be the war of which is ahead, the pathogens or the antibiotics. The antibiotics are losing, which is why things like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are such big threats. The challenge is, too, that once medicine got into a one-cause-one-treatment mentality, we were doomed. It was only a matter of course that other industries would get wind of how easy it was to access antibiotics and start using them for other purposes, such as those we see in the meat industry. (See the discussion in Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.)
Here’s some hypocrisy. Black says, “In 2011, drug manufacturers sold 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics for use on industrial farms, the highest amount ever reported and four times the amount sold to treat sick people. Critics contend the FDA has turned a blind eye to the problem, but a Natural Resources Defense Council report released in January tells a more damning story: The FDA buried research revealing that 18 types of antibiotics currently in use on farms are considered high risk for increasing antibiotic-resistant bacteria outbreaks in humans. In total, 30 drugs did not meet the FDA's own safety standards.”
There has been some positive action recently: this week McDonald’s, in response to loss of business, changed its CEO and announced that it will stop buying chicken given human antibiotics. (There is a little hair splitting here as they will still allow ionophores.) While this is a step in the right direction, it’s still a small step.
As you can see, this is a complex issue, but one consumers need to pay attention to. Stay tuned for Part II of this discussion. If you have questions before then, contact me today.
A practitioner for more than 38 years, Linda Dulicai is a Certified Natural Health Professional and an Advanced Loomis Digestive Health Specialist educated in more than 25 modalities of wellness. She is CEO of The Healthy Zone.