FDA Refuses Limits on Antibiotics in Our Food
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FDA Refuses Limits on Antibiotics in Our Food

The FDA has refused to review the overuse of antibiotics in our food. What are their reasons and what can you do.

The United States Congress blocked the FDA from taking action and further review on limiting the overuse of antibiotics in our food. It looks as if after decades, the FDA will no longer consider a limit on antibiotics used in animals produced for our food.

For decades scientists, consumer group and doctors including the American Medical Association (AMA) have asked the US government to limit the use of antibiotics in animals that we consumers eventually eat for food. The US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has long said they wanted a limit on the amount of antibiotics that can be given to livestock and Congress blocked any action and the FDA withdrew any actions that they could have taken.

This concern goes back as far as 1977 when the FDA first recognized the dangers of using antibiotics in feed for animals and proposed the limits on the amount of antibiotics, mainly penicillin and tetracycline’s that could be used in animal feed. And now, after 34 years of trying to get the use of antibiotics in animal feed regulated, it is all over with no action ever taken

Why the Overuse of Antibiotics is an Important Issue

The overuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals has been a concern for decades. Doctors have been over prescribing antibiotics for many years for health problems like colds, sore throats, flu and ear aches. These are all viruses which antibiotics have no effect on. Antibiotics should only be used on a bacterial infections and not a virus. Yet parents demand some medicine when their children gets sick and doctors give in, and continue prescribing antibiotics like penicillin for any and all kinds of viral illnesses.

The overuse of antibiotics has caused what are known as super bugs, bacteria that have become resistant to normal antibiotics and penicillin. Super bugs like antibiotic resistant infections include MSRA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). As these super bugs or antibiotic resistant bacterial infections become more common, scientists have to develop more and more potent forms of penicillin and antibiotics. MSRA now kills more Americans than AIDS. Another study found that 45% of those who worked at hog farms had MSRA and is turning up more in communities that are near these hog farms. . You can also read How Antibiotics Hurts Our Health.

Antibiotics in Our Food

Not only have doctors over-prescribed penicillin and antibiotics for us, the use of antibiotics in animals for our food adds to this problem of antibiotic resistant super bugs like MSRA.

Those who produce animals for food like cattle that we eat every day in steaks, hamburgers, burritos, chicken and turkey use antibiotics in their animal feed. A sick animal brings no money to those ranchers and feedlots, so they give sick animals antibiotics so they can be at least minimally healthy to be sold. And these same livestock producers also regularly give antibiotics to healthy animals in their feed, every day to keep the animals from becoming sick and to promote faster growth. This would be like all of us taking antibiotics every day, just so we don’t get sick, and that would be dangerous and ridiculous.

How Serious is the Overuse of Antibiotics in Our Food

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently reported that 80% of antibiotic use in the United States goes to livestock and animals for our food. And 90% of these antibiotics used in our food are given as animal feed so the animals do not end up sick living in such unsanitary conditions.

Another study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientist found that 70% of all antibiotic use in the United States is used in the feed of healthy animals, 14% of the antibiotics used were for sick animals and 16% of the antibiotic uses went to humans and our pets for health reasons. Since the FDA and doctors first recognized this overuse of antibiotics as a major health concern, the problem has only gotten worse instead of better. The estimated use of antibiotics as non-therapeutic reasons in animals has risen from 16 million pounds in 1985 to 25 million pounds of antibiotics in 2001. And still the FDA refuses to address and correct this problem.

Congress, FDA and Politics

The US Congress blocked the study of limiting antibiotics in our food on December 22, 2011 which stopped any type of action the FDA could pursue. This is obviously the work of our politicians who seemingly are paid only by lobbyists. Who could benefit from this type of refusal? That would not only be the pharmaceutical companies that make these antibiotics but also the feedlot, livestock, hog and poultry producers.

These government agencies that are supposed to be protecting our food supply and our health do not seem to care about anything other than their lobbyists and big business. In my opinion, these types of politicians and their actions are so blatant and obvious anymore, that something needs to be done.

It now appears that any FDA action on limiting the use of antibiotics on healthy animals in our food supply is over and nothing can be done until after the next presidential election. It is doubtful republicans will ever do anything since they seem to be the most blatant about protecting big business, yet the Obama Administration has also ignored this problem.

The current FDA wording in this decision is “to focus its efforts for now on the potential for voluntary reform and the promotion of the judicious use of antimicrobials in the interest of public health.”

Those in charge of our important food safety organizations include the US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, a state that has large hog farm and commercial feedlot operations. Michael Taylor is the FDA’s deputy commissioner of food safety, otherwise known as the czar of American food safety. Mr. Taylor is best known as a former executive of Monsanto. So the next time an American politician talks about keeping our food safe, take it with a grain of organic salt. 

What Can You Do

Even if you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, or only eat organic and grass-fed beef, you are still at risk. These antibiotic resistant super bugs are still just that, antibiotic resistance and you could become ill with MSRA or another type of antibiotic resistance bacterial infection. If you can buy only grass-fed beef and organic poultry, it might just send a message to these food producers that you are fed up with the overuse of antibiotics in our food and the blatant risk to our health. Send a message to your congressman and senator that you are tired of their obvious pandering to big business and lobbyist.

Copyright © December 2011 Sam Montana


Wired.com Timeline of FDA Actions

National Resources Defense Council

Union of Concerned Scientists

USDA Draft Guidance

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Comments (14)

Outstanding, will this issue ever be resolved? I am more concerned about the effects on future generations of children..voted

I fully agree with your well composed exposure on the over use of antibiotics in our food sources. Well presented valuable topic. thank you.

The American People should be OUTRAGED by this. I would boycot buying any meat other than organic. There is no reason why the American government should block this.. unless somebody is paying them to... Did you know that USA food standards are often lower than many other countries standards. Even some pet food made (and approved) in the USA cannot be exported because it is far below world standards - and that's just pet food! WAKE UP AMERICANS - do not buy meat that is not organic - this also means stop eating meat in restaurants and fast food joints. You're killing yourself and your kids when you eat crap like this.

Thanks for bringing this to us. This issue of great concern to me. I've written my representatives about this before. The pharmaceutical lobbyists are extraordinarily powerful; scary even. voted and promoted.

Ranked #29 in Food Safety

I agree with Brenda. We should be outraged by this. This is our lives we're talking about. I seldom buy anything buy organic meat and don't buy pork at all any more, but, as you said, that doesn't mean we're safe. No one has a right to do this to us.

I've been pissed about this for a very long time . . .

excellent article, it really is so sad that the FDA does not think of people's health first

Ranked #12 in Food Safety

GREAT one Sam, FDA is too much, a blessed new year to you and yours.

The FDA should be interesting in clearing drugs that help people instead of using their power against us. Voted up! We should all send this one to Congress!

Ranked #2 in Food Safety

Diane, the sad thing is, most of those in Congress do not care about us at all. They seem to only care about the huge Pharma companies bottom line and the huge feedlot operations and their lobbyist. And that includes companies like Cargill and Tyson Foods.

Good article. Voted this one!

Ranked #4 in Food Safety

We need to get rid of the lobbyists. They're a distraction to what politicians should be focused on.

I don't think I ever really KNEW there were antibiotics in my food. Thank you for your research and time.

Ranked #6 in Food Safety

Thank you dear Sam for this work on food. Nice article. Voted. I appreciate your friendship and support.