Did You Know You May Be Consuming Hidden Antibiotics Daily

Did You Know You May Be Consuming Hidden Antibiotics Daily

Did You Know You May Be Consuming Hidden Antibiotics Daily?!

Unfortunately, the greatest danger posed by antibiotics does not actually come from prescribed courses of antibiotics, which you have some control over, but rather from the food you eat. The prevalence of antibiotics in both meats and vegetables has the potential to throw off, or contribute to this intestinal imbalance.

Animals such as cattle, chickens and hogs raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO's) are routinely given antibiotics -- both to keep them alive in stressful, unsanitary conditions, and to make them grow bigger, faster. Antibiotics can also be found in conventionally-grown vegetables, and the reason for this is because antibiotics in livestock end up being transferred, via manure, into the soils that vegetables are then grown in.

The widespread practice of using subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics to increase growth in livestock has been pin-pointed as a leading cause for the development of new strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as the now-widespread form of staph (MRSA) known as ST398, or "the pig strain" of MRSA.

This livestock-acquired strain of MRSA adds to an already troubling situation... The human community-associated strain of MRSA, USA300, already affects close to 100,000 people a year in the US, and caused 18,600 deaths in 2005 alone iv. To put that number into perspective, HIV/AIDS killed 17,000 people that same year. What's worse, research has shown that various MRSA strains can be transmitted from humans to animals and vice versa v, putting the health of both humans and animals (including pets) at ever increasing risk.

It's important to realize that antibiotic-resistant disease like MRSA is a man-made problem, created by the excessive use of antibiotics. Medical overuse of antibiotics is one aspect, but the greatest, and most hidden, factor is the excessive use of antibiotics in food production.

According to the first-ever report by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on this subject, American factory farms used a whopping 29 million pounds of antibiotics in 2009 alonevi. Back in 2001, a report issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock accounted for 70 percent of the total antibiotic use in the US, and when all agricultural uses were considered, they estimated the share could be as high as 84 percent!vii

Clearly, agricultural antibiotic use is the smoking gun in the battle against antibiotic-resistant superbugs. It's also likely a primary cause of chronic poor gut health and reduced immune system function!

FDA Proposes Phase-Out of Antibiotics in Food Production—Sort of...

The rise of antibiotic-resistance in livestock is so alarming that government officials have finally admitted you can become infected when you eat or simply handle infected meat. They also warn that the microbes can contaminate kitchen counters, utensils and other food. Even the USDA, which usually defends agribusiness interests, proclaimed at a 2009 congressional hearing that there is indeed a link between antibiotic use in animals and drug resistance in humans viii.

But the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still refuses to tackle this issue head on.

In fact, on December 22 last year, the agency quietly posted a notice in the Federal Register that it was effectively reneging on its plan to reduce the use of antibiotics in agricultural animal feed – a plan it has been touting since 1977. Against all logic, and with virtually no public announcement, the FDA decided to continue allowing livestock producers to use the drugs in feed. According to the Federal Register, dated December 22, 2011 ix:

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or the Agency) is withdrawing two 1977 notices of opportunity for a hearing (NOOH), which proposed to withdraw certain approved uses of penicillin and tetracyclines intended for use in feeds for food-producing animals based in part on microbial food safety concerns."

This despite the fact that as recently as 2010, the FDA acknowledged the problem in a draft guidance to industryx, which proposed livestock producers stop using subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics in animal feed, stating that:

"Antimicrobial drugs have been widely used in human and veterinary medicine for more than 50 years … The development of resistance to this important class of drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness as antimicrobial therapies, poses a serious public health threat.

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs creates selective evolutionary pressure that enables antimicrobial resistant bacteria to increase in numbers more rapidly than antimicrobial susceptible bacteria and thus increases the opportunity for individuals to become infected by resistant bacteria.

Because antimicrobial drug use contributes to the emergence of drug resistant organisms, these important drugs must be used judiciously in both animal and human medicine to slow the development of resistance."

Then, in April of this year, the FDA issued voluntary guidelines suggesting that livestock should only be treated with antibiotics to cure illness, not to enable growth xi. But can we really rely on the honor system with regard to how industry grows our food? I think not. We need measures to ensure antibiotics are used responsibly— and that needs to go beyond mere suggestion.

On a slightly brighter note, in January the FDA announced it would restrict the use of one class of antibiotics, cephalosporin, in cattle, swine, chicken and turkey xii. These antibiotics, which are regularly prescribed to humans, are implicated in the development and spread of drug-resistant bacteria among humans that work with, and eat, the animals. As of April 5, cephalosporin is no longer allowed for use in preventing diseases in livestock, although they will still be allowed for illness treatment in livestock.

How to Protect Your Family from Hidden Antibiotics

Granted, conventional medicine still needs to curtail its prescriptions for antibiotics, but even if you use antibiotics judiciously you're still exposed to significant amounts of antibiotics from the foods you eat. This is one of the primary reasons why I ONLY recommend organic, grass-fed, free-range meats and organic pasture-raised chickens, as non-medical use of antibiotics is not permitted in organic farming. These foods are also far superior to CAFO-raised meats in terms of nutritional content, which you can read more about in this previous article.

Apart from growing and raising your own foods, your best option is to get to know a local farmer—one who uses non-toxic farming methods. If you live in an urban area, there are increasing numbers of community-supported agriculture programs available that offer access to healthy, locally grown foods, even if you live in the heart of the city.

The Weston Price Foundation xiii also has chapters all over the world and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase these types of foods locally. Another resource you can try is Local Harvest xiv, which you can use to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of safe, sustainably grown food in your area.


Colleen Murray-Thompson Headshot
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Phone: 561-436-4029
Dated: April 16th 2016
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