In The News

Use of Antibiotics in Farmed Animals and Growing Disease Resistance

Compiled from The New York Times National Report by Jane E. Brody, Oct. 18, 2001
and "Antibiotics Overused in Chickens" by Rich Hayes in the Baltimore Sun, July 23, 2001

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are rampant in meat and poultry and can be found in consumers' intestines, researchers are showing. The findings suggest that many food-borne illnesses [the majority of which come from eating animal products including eggs and dairy according to the U.S. Dept of Agriculture] will not respond to the usual treatments. Some cases may even resist all current drugs. This year, the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit group based in Cambridge, Mass., estimated that 26.6 million pounds of antibiotics are administered to farmed animals each year in the U.S., with only 2 million pounds used to treat active infections. The rest are used to prevent infection or promote artificial growth rates. About 11 million pounds of the total are used in poultry feed, 10 million pounds in pig feed, and 4 million pounds in cattle feed. By contrast, 3 million pounds of antibiotics are used in human medicine. In a recent study, twelve volunteers ingested antibiotic-resistant organisms from chicken or pork, and six ate antibiotic-susceptible strains from chicken. Afterward, the same strains were isolated from the volunteers' stools for up to 14 days, indicating that both the antibiotic-resistant and antibiotic-susceptible bacteria survived the trip through the digestive tract and were able to multiply there.