Growing concerns over the excessive use of antibiotics in livestock animals have fueled both a national dialogue and an even greater global discussion about the drugs' safety and efficacy. But, despite the public anxiety, factory farms show no sign of reducing antibiotic use.
According to Rodale.com, the FDA has reported that sales of antibiotics for use in factory farms in 2012 grew about 2.3 percent over 2011. While a relatively small growth, the sales included a rise in both penicillin and tetracycline, antibiotics commonly used for human infections, with lower side effects and risks than other drugs. Sales of the antibiotic drugs called lincosamides rose 23 percent. They're commonly used on hard-to-treat staph infections, particularly MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
Already roughly 80 percent of the total antibiotic supplies in the U.S. go to livestock consumption where they're used to ward off and treat infections common from living in unsanitary, crowded conditions; and the drugs are also used to increase animal size and weight in less time than would be achieved through normal diets.
The FDA has been slow to issue any restrictions on the use of antibiotics in livestock, even though the evidence that antibiotic-resistant pathogens pose serious human health risks continues to show cause for concern. Antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" kill about 17,000 people a year, which is more than the AIDS virus, reports Rodale. The World Health Organization has urged the developing world to limit antibiotic use in animals as the resulting antibiotic-resistance issues are creating a 'post-antibiotic era' in which minor infections such as a scraped knee or mild cold could lead to death.
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