(NaturalNews) While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) endlessly stonewalls in establishing enforceable guidelines for the appropriate use of antibiotics in livestock, the conventional meat industry continues to shove about 30 million pounds of these drugs annually down the throats of animals. And recent figures released by the Pew Charitable Trusts reveal that antibiotic use in meat and poultry production now outpaces the amount used to treat sick people by a factor of five.
An "infographic" recently put out by that non-profit public policy group illustrates a steady rise in animal antibiotic use since the early 2000s, despite near-steady usage rates in humans, which recently prompted the FDA to at least acknowledge the problem. As you may recall, the FDA put forth a new guidance last year that advises meat and poultry producers to curb antibiotic use in livestock. But this guidance is not mandatory and actually allows the food industry to regulate itself, a failed approach that will obviously lead to little change.
"[W]hile human antibiotic use has leveled off at below 8 [million] pounds annually, livestock farms have been sucking in more and more of the drugs each year -- and consumption reached a record nearly 29.9 [million] pounds in 2011," writes Tom Philpott for Mother Jones. "To put it another way, the livestock industry is now consuming nearly four-fifths of the antibiotics used in the U.S., and its appetite for them is growing."
Rates of animal antibiotic use rising faster than overall meat production, illustrating damaging effects of resistant bacteria
The biggest issue with feeding antibiotics to animals, besides the obvious harm these drugs can cause to humans who consume tainted meat, is the rapid emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Continued overuse of antibiotics for many decades has led to the inception of "super" bacteria strains, or "superbugs," that no longer respond to antibiotic treatment. And these bugs are increasingly plaguing conventional meat and poultry products, not to mention hospitals and other healthcare facilities that treat immunocompromised individuals.
According to data compiled from the FDA's National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), virtually every category of conventional meat and poultry sold in American supermarkets today has seen a dramatic increase in the number of superbugs it is harboring. For instance, as much as 78 percent of all tested conventional ground turkey and 75 percent of all tested conventional chicken breast was found to be harboring at least one strain of Salmonella resistant to antibiotics. And about half of all turkey samples were found to be resistant to three or more strains.
"[W]hen you cram animals together by the thousands and dose them daily with antibiotics, the bacteria that live on and in the animals adapt and develop resistance to those bacteria killers," adds Philpott about the situation. "While the FDA dithers with voluntary approaches to regulation, the meat industry is feasting on antibiotics and sending out product tainted with antibiotic-resistant bugs."
Apart from the FDA taking formidable action to end the practice of pumping livestock with antibiotics, the purpose of which is to make them grow faster and boost industry profits, the next best thing is for consumers to stop buying conventional meat products. You, as a conscious shopper, can vote with your wallet by choosing only pasture-raised meat and poultry products, or meat and poultry products that are specifically designated as being free of added antibiotics and growth hormones.