04/04/2012 - Most of the turkey growers that Minnesota veterinarian Jill Nezworski works with mix antibiotics into their birds' feed only to cope with disease -- quelling a cough outbreak or easing a bout of avian diarrhea.
A minority, however, also use the drugs to boost their birds' growth and improve the conversion of feed into body mass. Some hog farmers, cattle ranchers and chicken producers do the same sort of thing.
But decades of concern over the effects of animal antibiotic use on the health of the humans at the end of the food chain have boiled to the point where federal regulations are in the works that could curb their use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is on the verge of releasing new guidelines on animal antibiotics to limit their application to animal health.
The FDA's proposed guidelines, which will be voluntary, are "a good first step," said Gail Hansen, a veterinarian and senior officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is campaigning for animal antibiotic limits. "But they should not be seen as a 'dust-our-hands-off-and-we're-done' solution."
Over time, people have become more resistant to antibiotic drugs, posing a public health issue. It's a phenomenon driven by many factors, and the role of animal antibiotic use is a matter of debate. But according to a 2010 FDA report, numerous studies indicate that use of antibiotics in food-producing animals is linked to antibiotic resistance in humans.
Read the full article, New Food Rules Felt on the Farms, on the Star Tribune's website.