Animal Antibiotics, Are They a Threat to Human Health?

In case you missed it, Katie Couric did an investigative report on  the common practice amongst factory farms of feeding healthy animals antibiotics. More and more farm workers are turning up with what is now becoming a common and potentially deadly infection known as MRSA or methicillin resistant staph. This strain of staph can be tough to treat because it is resistant to some commonly used antibiotics, and is sometimes called a “super bug1.

The incidences of drug resistance infections have literally sky rocketed in the past twenty years. Last year alone 65,000-70,000 Americans died as a result, more than prostate and breast cancer combined. 2Many are now asking questions about the safety of Big Ag and factory farms using common antibiotics to promote animal growth and fight off infections before they occur.

According to Katie Couric’s report, there is evidence that MRSA has now been found in the nation’s meat supply. Because only a small fraction of meat has been tested, it is not clear just how widespread it may be.

More and more reports are turning up like these. Which leads us to ask the same question Couric did to Liz Wagstrom, a veterinarian for the National Pork Bord, “Some people say giving animals antibiotics to prevent illness or promote growth is like putting antibiotics in a child’s cereal,” Couric said. “You know, save them so they’ll work when they are needed.”

Wagstrom’s response, “I’d say we do strategically place them……It’s not an all day, every pig gets antibiotics every day of his life.”

“So you don’t think they’re being overused by farmers anywhere in this country,” Couric asked.
Wagstrom replied, “the vast majority of producers use them appropriately.”

Many however are questioning  whether this is true. ABC News did a report In December, ’09 entitled Pressure Rises To Stop Antibiotics in Agriculture. In 2009 three government agencies in charge of protecting human health, the Center for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, affirmed that drug-resistant diseases ensuing from overuse of antibiotics in animals is a “serious emerging concern.” Last summer, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, FDA deputy commissioner, told Congress that farmers need to stop feeding antibiotics to healthy farm animals.


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  • Pat Gardiner  February 15, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I have spent almost a decade on this disaster, day after day: there at the beginning, with pigs and in pig country when the horror story started

    There is little doubt that MRSA in pigs has been leaking into the hospitals for some years.

    There was a nasty mutation to a porcine circovirus in Britain in 1999 which caused an epidemic that required huge quantities of antibiotics to handle the consequences.

    MRSA in pigs was the result, usually the ST398 strain.

    The Dutch picked up the problem more than 5 years ago and commendably made everything they knew public.

    Both circovirus and MRSA epidemics have now travelled the world along with accompanying cover-ups. It is quite a nasty situation – now coming to light in the USA.

    MRSA st398, mutated circovirus and various other unpleasant zoonotic diseases have now reached American pig farms.

    The people exposing the scandal in the US are to be commended.

    Pat Gardiner
    Release the results of testing British pigs for MRSA and C.Diff now! and

  • The Health Dude  February 22, 2010 at 4:57 am

    “Health is wealth” is well known to all and everyone wants good health.So, Let us build a food habit discipline, keep pace with work, rest and exercise to Achieve good health, The ultimate wealth.

  • Heidi  February 25, 2010 at 7:31 am

    A good way to avoid this problem is to 1. Reduce our meat consumption, 2. Press for legislation that ensures humane treatment of farm animals, which doesn’t only lead to healthier animals but also safer food derived from them, 2. Buy organic, if possible from local sources that are certified organic by a *trusted* organic certifier.

    I am glad this has finally also become a topic for the ‘mass media’ in the USA, I hope to see more of this in media outlets that reaches many consumers. Thanks for this article, Laura!

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