Farm Antibiotics Make Us Sick

Farm lobby resists attempts to regulate drug use

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 9, 2012 2:56 PM CDT

(Newser) – Why are people getting sick and dying from antibiotic-resistant infections? In part because of the food we buy at the supermarket, advocates say. With the farm industry buying most of America's antibiotics, and pumping it into animals like chickens and pigs, we may be munching on germs that have grown resistant to antibiotics. But officials don't track the use of antibiotics in animals, which makes the link hard to prove. "It’s like facing off against a major public health crisis with one hand tied behind our backs,” a scientist tells the New York Times.

Worse, the farm industry vigorously fights any attempt to monitor antibiotic use, and denies any connection to disease in humans. The FDA tried banning certain antibiotics in agriculture back in 1977, but the farm lobby got Congress to shoot down the bans—so the agency is trying again this year. Meanwhile, resistant bacteria is believed to cause thousands of deaths each year. "The single biggest problem we face in infectious disease today is the rapid growth of resistance to antibiotics," says a scientist. "Human use contributes to that, but use in animals clearly has a part too."

Cattle are fed at Larson Farms/Midwest Feeders, one of the largest ranches in Illinois, Wednesday, April 25, 2012, in Maple Park, Ill.
Cattle are fed at Larson Farms/Midwest Feeders, one of the largest ranches in Illinois, Wednesday, April 25, 2012, in Maple Park, Ill.   (AP Photo/Charles Osgood)
Scientists and doctors say lack of data about antibiotic use on farms is posing a serious public health risk, as overuse is spurring antibiotic-resistant diseases.
Scientists and doctors say lack of data about antibiotic use on farms is posing a serious public health risk, as overuse is spurring antibiotic-resistant diseases.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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