We’ve noticed this come up several times in the news recently, and while this week’s blog is not directly related to dentistry, we felt it was important information concerning our food supply.
According to a group of 150 scientists, that includes a former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is putting human health at risk and driving up medical costs. This group, along with a group of 50 farmers and ranchers who have opted out of antibiotic use, released statements back in Sept. 2012 calling on the FDA and Congress to work together to regulate the use of antibiotics in livestock. Both groups concluded that the overuse of antibiotics is contributing to a health crisis. Louise Slaughter, a New York Representative joined in calling for regulation of animal agriculture’s use of non-therapeutic antibiotics. She said, “Every year, more than 100,000 Americans die from bacterial infections acquired in hospitals, and seventy percent of these infections are resistant to drugs commonly used to treat them. This abuse and overuse must stop.”
Donald Kennedy, former FDA commissioner said: “There’s no question that routinely administering non-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to food animals contributes to antibiotic resistance.” He stated that the FDA’s current approach asking the drug industry to voluntarily stop selling antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed, was not enough. Kennedy, who also served as editor-in-chief of Science magazine for eight years, said: “Unless it reaches the industry as a regulatory requirement it will not be taken seriously.” Three decades after the FDA determined that growth-promoting uses of antibiotics in agriculture were potentially harmful to human health, its own data shows that 80% of all antimicrobial drugs sold nationally are used in animal agriculture.
The scientists said that while the medical community has done a good job educating doctors and reducing prescriptions, the agriculture industry was lagging behind. While data linking antibiotic resistance to non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics is widely accepted, they are still added in massive quantities to animal feed to promote faster growth and to compensate for diseases caused by poor diet and overcrowded living conditions of the animals. While the doses the animals receive in their feed is considered to be a “low dose” , this can be more harmful in producing drug-resistant bacteria. Alexander Fleming warned after accepting his Nobel Prize in 1945 for his discovery of penicillin , “there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing the microbes to nonlethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.
We found this story about Russ Kremer, a Missouri hog farmer who caught a blood disease after being gored in the knee by one of his pigs. He was told by his doctor that he had the same antibiotic resistance as his pigs. His infection was resistant to six out of seven antibiotics used to treat it, Kremer said.
Kremer said he changed his practice when he found out the feed was responsible. “I exterminated my herd, brought in wholesome feedstuff without antibiotics. In the last 23 years my pigs have been drug free, they have less than 1% mortality and I’ve saved $16,000.”