(HOST) Some seventy percent of our medical antibiotics are being used in farm animals. Commentator Ruth Page points out that such overuse helps disease organisms evolve to resist the controls; and that hurts all of us.
(PAGE) Researchers in United States laboratories produce many antibiotics. They work long hours trying to keep ahead of the fast-evolving bacteria that develop resistance to each new drug after it comes into widespread use. Some 69% percent of those drugs aren’t used to help us fight disease; they’re used for our farm animals, primarily hogs.
Why do we care, so long as giving antibiotics to pigs from piglet-size on promotes growth, so we can eat all the pork we want? We love pork, it’s one of America’s favorite foods. We like it in roasts, chops, sausages, hot dogs, scrapple, and hams, from large Easter roasts to tissue-thin slices for sandwiches. It’s chopped into soups and casseroles, ground for ham patties, and toasted in kabobs with pineapple.
We worry because overuse of antibiotics can endanger ourselves — and especially our children. It isn’t easy for the young to fend off infection. Researchers are constantly battling to find replacements for the numerous antibiotics that no longer work. Think how distressing it is for a parent to hear that, “Yes, last year we controlled this infection with a particular antibiotic, but it doesn’t work any more. We’ve some other things to try, but we’re not sure how well they’ll work.” This did happen once in our family, and it is devastating.
Now environmentalist organizations are persuading some large food processors to cut the bad habit and markedly reduce their use of antibiotics in hogs. The non-profit organization, Environ- mental Defense, has become a partner with Compass Group to promote this change.
Compass is the biggest food service company in the world. It provides pork and other products to catering businesses and restaurants everywhere, along with special customers like IBM and the Chicago public school system.
Compass has decided as a corporation to limit use of important antibiotics in pigs and chickens. Smithfield Foods is on the way to reducing their use of antibiotics.
Why doesn’t the Food and Drug Administration FORCE limits on medically important antibiotics in animals? Well, they’re working on it, but red tape makes them slow. It can take up to twenty years to get an unsafe food or drug off the market, Environmental Defense says.
It takes more than a few volunteer groups to accomplish the whole job. Environmental Defense, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others have petitioned the FDA to ban the use of medically important antibiotics in animal feed. The AMA and nearly 300 other groups support the bipartisan Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act before Congress.
This is Ruth Page, hoping the government and others can move swiftly enough to protect the antibiotics that result from hard work by our drug researchers from being over-used in farm animals.