Washington, D.C. — There is more to our meat than meets the eye: overuse of antibiotics in factory farm animals is leading to the spread of antibiotic-resistant (AR) bacteria, a trend that deteriorates the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs needed to save human lives. A new report released by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, Antibiotic Resistance 101: How Antibiotic Misuse on Factory Farms Can Make You Sick, provides an overview of the growing threat to public health and examines the pervasiveness of AR bacteria in the U.S. meat supply.
“The evidence of the correlation between low-dose antibiotics used in healthy livestock and the rise in human bacterial infections that don’t respond to antibiotic treatments is clear and mounting,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “It is outrageous that the FDA and our members of Congress are failing to protect Americans from this looming public health crisis.”
The report defines the problem of antibiotic resistance and how industrial agriculture has accelerated it by routinely giving low doses of antibiotics to healthy animals over long periods of time to promote growth and prevent disease caused by the cramped, unsanitary conditions of factory farms. This practice, known as subtherapeutic use, creates AR bacteria that then enter the food supply.
The report explains how AR bacteria spread from livestock to consumers, farmers and the environment, as well as how the FDA currently regulates antibiotics. It concludes with recommendations for tackling antibiotic resistance.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that foodborne illnesses result in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. In August, six people died at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center in the Washington, D.C., area due to infections caused by AR bacteria.
“The FDA’s voluntary guidelines will do little to slow this frightening epidemic of death and disease,” said Hauter. “The problem is dire, and the agency’s failure to ban the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in livestock is irresponsible and reckless.”
Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.