Sobering new data from the Food and Drug Administration is indicating that antibiotic use in the meat industry is on the rise and has vastly overtaken usage to treat sick people. We want to keep our animals, our food, and ourselves healthy, so why should we care? With the meat industry now consuming a staggering 3.9 times the amount of antibiotics used for human treatment, the industry is churning out meat increasingly filled with antibiotic-resistant pathogens. This means illnesses previously curable by our current methods are now becoming increasingly hard to overcome.
Looking at this recent data, Pew Charitable Trust has created a graphic detailing the massive divide in antibiotic use and its increasing prevalence in meat industry use. As producers are using antibiotics to make animals grow faster and keep them heathy in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions, the animals aren’t the only ones paying the price. With such confined spaces, pathogens are allowed to adapt and develop resistance to bacteria killing drugs. Now these resistant pathogens are being passed along to humans – in increasing numbers – and pose a serious and growing health threat.
Pew did further research looking at the FDA’s latest results from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, or NARMS, which buys and samples meat products to test for bacterial pathogens. The results, as reported by Tom Philpott at Mother Jones, are sobering. In an email from PEW he reports:
- Of the Salmonella on ground turkey, about 78% were resistant to at least one antibiotic and half of the bacteria were resistant to three or more. These figures are up compared to 2010.
- Nearly three-quarters of the Salmonella found on retail chicken breast were resistant to at least one antibiotic. About 12% of retail chicken breast and ground turkey samples were contaminated with Salmonella.
- Resistance to tetracycline [an antibiotic] is up among Campylobacter on retail chicken. About 95% of chicken products were contaminated with Campylobacter, and nearly half of those bacteria were resistant to tetracyclines. This reflects an increase over last year and 2002.
Remember the dangerous days before antibiotics could easily save our lives? Yeah, neither do I… but I’m not sure I want to remember either. We need more detailed information on how antibiotics are being used in the meat industry and how they are effecting our world health. You can find out more at saveantibiotics.org.
Click here or the infographic from Pew below for a closer look: