Press Release, Opinion

''Yes, Antibiotic-Resistant Bugs Can Jump from Animals to Humans''

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"For decades, the meat industry has denied any problem with its reliance on routine, everyday antibiotic use for the nation's chickens, cows, and pigs. But it's a bit like a drunk denying an alcohol problem while leaning on a barstool for support. Antibiotic use on livestock farms has surged in recent years — from 20 million pounds annually in 2003 to nearly 30 million pounds in 2011.

Over the same period, the entire US human population has consumed less than 8 million pounds per year, meaning that livestock farms now suck in around 80 percent of the antibiotics consumed in the United States. Meanwhile, the industry routinely churns out meat containing an array of antibiotic-resistant pathogens."

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"It's true that the FDA has limited the use of a few specific antibiotics on farms — for example, its move last year to place restrictions on the cephalosporin family of antibiotics, in order to "preserve the effectiveness of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans." (Cephalosporins are used to treat common respiratory-tract infections like pneumonia, strep throat, tonsillitis, and bronchitis, as well as urinary-tract infections.) But as I showed, the industry had already mostly phased out cephalosporins—and dramatically ramped up use of tetracyclines and penicillins, which are both also quite important in human medicine. So the FDA was restricting something the industry had already largely abandoned, and doing nothing to impede the flow of other vital antibiotics to factory farms.

Indeed, exceptions like cephalosporin to the side, the FDA offers only "voluntary" guidelines on "judicious" use. In reality, antibiotic use is on feedlots is a free-for-all, as this Pew analysis shows."

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