Good news: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that they are calling on our nation’s pork, beef, and poultry farmers to reduce the use of antibiotics in these animals. Bad news: Some watchdog groups say this recommendation doesn’t go far enough. And worse yet: The real reason these animals are fed antibiotics is not what most people think.
It’s probably safe to assume that most of us believe antibiotics are included in the feed for farm animals to protect us from bacteria-laden illnesses. But, hold on. A major reason animals routinely get these drugs is because they make them grow faster. Not only that, but animals in this country actually consume far more antibiotics than people do. All of that is just a health disaster waiting to happen.
Why? Because this increases the chances that bacteria in animals will become resistant to drugs—and those drug-resistant bacteria can then infect us. And the FDA agrees. For years, they have been saying this practice is both unnecessary and dangerous. We are consuming tons of unnecessary antibiotics just so these farmers can produce bigger cows, pigs and chickens and make more money.
To help remedy this, the FDA is not trying to ban the use of these drugs though. Rather, they are collaborating with drug companies, veterinarians and livestock producers to make reduced antibiotic use voluntary because they feel this will be a more effective approach than attempting to ban more than a hundred separate drugs. Not only that, but they say banning them altogether would be an expensive and time-consuming undertaking that could take “decades of effort, and millions and millions of dollars of resources.”
There’s that economy over health issue again. Let’s not try to really make our food healthier for people because that would require too much effort.
As Avinash Kar, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, this action is a “make-believe” solution:
(The meat) industry is not required to do anything. This is an ineffective response to the real and sobering threat of rising antibiotic resistance, which threatens human health.
So while it’s good that the FDA is suggesting reduced use of antibiotic that are used strictly to promote growth, this brings up two important questions: Will the farmers comply? And, aren’t the drugs that will continue to be used to prevent disease a matter of interpretation?
In other words, will anything really change when it comes to what’s in our meat?