Smart Woman: Animal Antibiotics and Your Health

Smart Woman: Animal Antibiotics and Your Health

Doctors are concerned about the antibiotics given to animals, saying that it is becoming more difficult to treat patients who have consumed the animal byproducts.
For decades, farmers have added antibiotics to animal feed to stimulate growth in poultry, cattle, and pigs.  But the antibiotics have been overused, and bacteria in the animals have become resistant to the drugs. Eventually, these resistant bacteria come into contact with humans.

The FDA's mandate would, eliminate over the counter use of antibiotics for the main purpose of boosting growth in healthy animals. Antibiotics could only be used to treat or prevent disease and must be prescribed by a veterinarian. 

One consumer advocacy group estimates 80 percent of all antibiotics in this country are used in farm animals.

Dr. William Schaffner is an infectious disease specialist with Vanderbilt University. He says, "The fewer antibiotics we use in our foods, the better it is for us, because we infectious disease doctors are having a harder and harder time treating patients with important infections."

The program is voluntary. The two main companies that produce animal feed that incorporates antibiotics have agreed to comply with the new program.

Doctor Michael Taylor is deputy commissioner of the FDA. He says, "It's really focusing on those antibiotics that are important in human medicine and reducing the likelihood that the disease causing bacteria become resistant to these antibiotics and therefore are no longer effective in treating people."

The FDA said it expects the meat producers to comply. In a statement, the National Pork Producers Council said, "We expect that hog farmers, and the federally inspected feed mills they purchase feed from, will follow the law."
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