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FDA: fighting drugs in animals

Gardiner Harris reports in the New York Times that the Food and Drug Administration is pushing to limit the use of antibiotics in animal feeding “in hopes of slowing the growing scourge of killer bacteria.”  However, as Harris notes, “[i]n the battle between public health and agriculture, the guys with the cowboy hats generally win.”

Infectious disease specialists posit that high levels of antibiotics in meat lead to bacteria that can resist traditional treatments, leading to the deaths of approximately 100,000 people per year in hospitals from infection.

Meat producers use antibiotics basically across the board: “to promote animal growth, prevent illness and treat sickness.”  They’re putting tetracycline and even penicillin in animals’ water and feed — hardly a selective approach.  These pork, beef, and poultry producers may argue, as Harris quotes on industry rep, that they’re using these antibiotics “not to promote growth but to prevent illness.”  But it seems strange to feed animals antibiotics before they’re sick.  And it’s even stranger that such a practice exists if it is leading to the creation of superbacteria that even the most modern hospitals can’t defeat.  An activist FDA in this case is on the side of animal and human health.

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