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Animal Antibiotics, Are They a Threat to Human Health?

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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 bug" 1.


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.

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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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