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70 percent of the antibiotics used in this country -- 70 percent! -- go into livestock production. And that's before you even get to the antibiotics that are used on animals who actually fall ill.

The reason is simple enough: If we didn't pump our livestock full of antibiotics, they would get sick. They are, after all, packed into dim and dirty enclosures. They're stacked on top of one another. And they're being fed food they didn't evolve to eat. All of this makes animals sick. But rather than raise them in a way that doesn't make them sick, but costs somewhat more, we just keep them on constant doses of antibiotics.

And then we eat them. Which means we get constant, low-grade doses of these antibiotics. Which means common bacteria get constant, low-grade doses of these antibiotics. And there's mounting evidence that this background exposure to antibiotics is contributing to the startling rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Everything from staph to strep to salmonella is exhibiting uncommon resilience in the face of our latest drugs. A 2003 World Health Organization study (PDF) put it pretty starkly: "There is clear evidence of the human health consequences [from agricultural use of antibiotics, including] infections that would not have otherwise occurred, increased frequency of treatment failures (in some cases death) and increased severity of infections." Even stronger was the title of a 2001 New England Journal of Medicine editorial: "Antimicrobial Use in Animal Feed -- Time to Stop."
WONKBOOK | On Wednesday, the FDA finalized a plan to ask drug companies to 'voluntarily' limit the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed.
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47 comments
 
I try to eat more organic foods..
 
NPR ran a story on All Things Considered about this. Supposedly some new regulation is in the works to try to limit this.
 
+Patrick MIller Which will probably be characterized by Republicans as a job-killing restraint on the meat industry. This is a perfect example of why some government is absolutely necessary.
 
i quit eating farm animals because of this. even if there were no concern for animal abuse, the product of factory farms is unhealthy for the consumer.
 
Job killing? Grass fed livestock requires more labor to produce, and costs more. How is that killing jobs? Sounds like a job creator to me.
 
+Douglas Heaton I couldn't agree more. I don't mind paying a little extra for meat from grass-fed livestock, especially if it creates jobs and limits my exposure to antibiotics.
 
How do profit driven companies "volunteer" to not sale more? I love capitalism but I understand the rules.
 
Thanks for the spam, Sitaram. :-(
 
You shud have Kenyan beef - very little anti-bios in them - a lot of natural food like napier grass makes their core food ratio. Best meat ever!
 
Come to Kansas and you'll see that this isn't all true. Here, grass fed is the norm, no farmer would give unnecessary drugs to their livestock, and living conditions are pretty nice. I used to think ranchers were all evil, too, till I moved to rural Kansas and saw with my own eyes.
 
Call me the conspiracist but what about the grass the cows do eat? is it natural, fertilized, GMO?!?! IJS, you never know.
 
Big Pharma + USDA = American bipartisanship. As long as we get cheaper beef, we're ok with super virus' and drug resistant strains. Good ol' American shortsightedness. A tax cut today for debt problems next week...yay!
 
+Audrian Banks have never seen or heard of a farmer fertizling cow fields, money is very tight and grass is free..assuming you don't tend to many cattle in to small of space. Then you have to move to some type of grain solution like this article discusses.
 
I would suggest that the FDA probably encouraged this, or even pushed for it to happen to allow for large-scale animal producing to drive up profits. Not necessarily the "more government" that I want...
Le Hunt
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Please bear in mind that feeding food animals antibiotics builds up a tolerance in us, making it harder for antibiotics to help us when we get sick. There are currently a number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria as a result of too many antibiotics being prescribed or having been used in animal feed. Smaller farms and more localized distribution would go a long way to making our food supply safer.
 
The FDA / EPA need to get some balls and stop protecting industry here. The neo-nicotinoid insecticides should be phased out right away because they are unselectively killing bees at very low doses.

I read articles 20 years ago about the inappropriate uses of antibiotics on factory farms. The science was well-understood even then, there were scientists that warned that it would create superbugs, and unfortunately it has happened.

The problem is that the factory farms cannot exist without this. They crowd too many animals into a small space, massively over-feed them to gain weight as fast as possible, so they get sick really easily.
 
Unfortunately every solution creates new problems. If ranching techniques shift away from factory farms and less antibiotic use, would the costs increase? If so, which political side, right or left, would complain first? Would "loss of farming livelihood" (right) or "affordable food" (left) be the dominant voice? I wonder if both sides have a vested interest in the status quo on this issue. As such, any governmental solution may never occur.
 
The best solution I have found is don't eat meat
 
While I don't like this entire proposition, I'm not sure that even a groundswell of opposition could - even if it were a possibility - ever change things. And that is the frustration. Everyone has their own level of acceptable, I'm afraid mine is lower than regulators.
 
I try to eat natural or organic predominantly, but still have commercial if out in public...
 
I would rather eat less, but better meat. Prices would go up, but it probably less than 2x.
 
Never mind. Apparently one can not say what they want without someone or a bunch of people thinking that a viewpoint (disagreed with or otherwise) condones their justification of calling people they DO NOT KNOW names. Oh and by the way, it is closer to 80%. That does it for me and Google+
 
Wow. I feel like that comment came out of nowhere. I can't tell if you're trolling or serious Steve...
Frank M
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Can we for once try and not dilute every worthwhile discussion by throwing religion into the mess? The subject of how mass produced food, corn subsidies, who's employed by the FDA, who makes the rules, who determines that this garbage is "safe", and monsanto's greed is bad enough.
Stop giving Christians a bad name! And stop undermining some of your own valid points by sounding like a nut.
 
Thats crazy we eating foods filled with "low-grade doses of antibiotics".
 
Einstein said that the single most thing that the human race can do to ensure our survival on this planet is to go VEGETARIAN...he was probably right....
cuz we rock!!:)
 
Annnnnd this is why I gave up eating meat a month ago.
 
It is easy to see why the farmers/ranchers crowd the animals in such a fashion. That is not to say I agree with it. There is not enough open space to allow the livestock to roam freely and live in a setting that they should. Over population has pushed people farther and farther into what was once considered country. It is not only has effected our livestock it has also effected our farmlands. The United States was once a country that was self sufficient. We had the ability to feed, house and employ our country. It is what helped us be a powerful nation. It has changed I see us becoming more and more dependent ion other nations;. If we don't come up with a solution to become a nation who depends on Americans, as we once did, we will be in so much trouble, trouble in the worst way.
 
There is plenty of land. It is easier for the corporate farmers to crowd the animals together. It is horrible!
 
I bet if we engineered the livestock to be born without legs we could stack even more of them into these spaces. These animals are food, as long as they are not tortured who cares how they live. Also don't forget our beef is the most trusted beef in the world. We'er obviously doing something right.
 
The tighter they are packed in the less they can move. That makes them more tender. Yummy.
 
Thats why we get so immune to certain antibiotics because we already have low levels in our systems after we consume these animals.. and scientist have to keep coming up with stronger antibiotics for humans..
 
I see those Purdue Chicken ads where the CEO claims his chickens are raised hormone free and such...truth/lie?
Frank M
 
@Brian Frye: "the most trusted in the world?" I seriously doubt that. Watch "Food, Inc" (it's a documentary film). If you know anything about food processing and "acceptable" levels of chemicals in your food, you might retract that statement. I trust it to not kill me instantaneously - that's about it. It's tasty, though, I give you that.
 
+Frank M You realize the U.S. rarely if at all imports beef? The reason is that other countries do not have the strict guide lines we have for our beef. We may not like what they put into the Beef but compared to alternative around the Globe, our beef is the gold standard. And yes its very tasty that's why myself and all other Americans are overweight. I'm trying to find "Pink Slime" in a can.
 
Sigh... how the world has changed...
 
Unfortunately government always has a roll to play. A point in case would be the fact that all desiccant packages are required to be labled "Do Not Eat". Why? Because at some point or other someone HAS eaten it and become ill or died. Why would anyone think that those things that people are supposed to eat would require less regulation, especially when it involves someone (possibly many someones) who may or may not take seriously the health risks involved. Money makes the world go round, but there is a limit to how much ethics are involved. You can not legislate ignorance out of people, but you can minimize the effects that poorly designed products can have. That is what government is supposed to do.
Frank M
 
@Brian- I'm "Central European" - those guys invented strict guidelines for ANYTHING! :) I understand your point, but if those guidelines have a high tolerance for "Things cows don't usually eat" and a high tolerance for "Chemicals we need to treat meat with so that people don't get sick from diseases that we introduced into cows", then those guidelines do seem to be lacking. Fortunately the people who used to run the huge corporations are working for the FDA, so that all makes sense, right?
On being overweight - I wouldn't blame beef. I live in the South, and I blame everything being fried.
That, and the fact that I don't walk anywhere anymore. I used to walk to the store etc, but when I was younger, those stores were closer, not 5-10 miles away with no sidewalk :(
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