A new FDA report finds antibiotics in livestock animals is still on the rise, not declining, even despite a growing number of major food brands including major chicken producers Tyson and Perdue, as well as fast food chains including McDonald’s, all moving away from antibiotics in livestock production.
Livestock use of cephalosporins, which are considered a vitally important class of antibiotics used when more common antibiotics are ineffective at treating infections, also rose by 12 percent between 2013 and 2014. The rise in cephalosporins happened even despite federal restrictions put in place by the FDA in 2012 on the use of the drugs in livestock animals.
The data also reveal that the drugs were procured over the counter instead by way of a veterinarian prescription. The FDA has also mandated that veterinary oversight be required in the administering of many antibiotics for livestock animals.
Medically important antibiotics are used in livestock animals for a number of reasons including the treatment and prevention of infections and illnesses. But the drugs are commonly employed not to treat or prevent an infection, but to promote growth in the animals and get them to market weight as soon as possible—a benefit to farmer profits and a significant threat to human and animal health as antibiotic resistant bacteria continue to become more difficult to treat.
The more humans are exposed to antibiotics in animal products, the less effective those drugs become at treating common infections and illnesses, forcing physicians to use stronger dosages and more aggressive antibiotics with harsher side effects. And even those antibiotics are showing signs of also becoming ineffective--a recent strain of E. coli found in China showed an ability to resist "last resort" antibiotics as well.
Approximately two million Americans every year battle antibiotic resistant infections—and about 20 percent of those are directly related to foodborne illnesses.
But the number of antibiotics used in livestock animals may soon start to decline as a 2017 deadline is fast approaching. Livestock producers will no longer be permitted to use antibiotics just to enhance growth in animals; they will need veterinary approval to use the drugs for health reasons.
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