Antibiotic use in agriculture has been soaring across the United States, as revealed in a recent report, issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics have been administered to livestock across extended lengths of time, as to boost growth, by making it more rapid and significant.
This type of medication has been employed without actually being aimed at treating life-threatening diseases or preventing them, for the sole purpose of ensuring that farm animals such as swine can reach the desired size and weight required for commercialization at a much more accelerated pace.
Such practices have been going on in spite of the fact that experts at CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System for Enteric Bacteria have warned that supergerms are on the rise, precisely as a result of excessive antibiotic use.
As explained by Avinash Kar, senior attorney with the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, prolonged exposure even to limited amounts of medicine has led to increased virulence, and much speedier proliferation among pathogens, leaving patients excessively vulnerable to certain infections.
The number of bacteria strains which are virtually undefeatable using conventional antimicrobials has been booming lately, causing more than 23,000 people in the United States to die on an annual basis, as another 2 million develop severe infections.
Given these distressing trends highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, countless food producers had claimed that they would cease to use antibiotics as a means of promoting the growth of farm animals, and restaurant chains such as McDonald’s had declared that they would only use antibiotics-free chicken.
These measures were promised also in an effort to appease researchers, policymakers and consumer rights advocates, who have all been drawing attention to the fact that the food industry should be more carefully regulated.
For instance, FDA officials have warned that subtherapeutic antimicrobials should no longer enter the food supply chain by the end of 2016, and medicine should only be used for combating illnesses affecting livestock.
However, in spite of numerous pledges of this kind, the prevalence of antibiotics administered to livestock has actually escalated by as much as 23%, between the years 2009 and 2014, as outlined in the FDA report published on Thursday, December 10.
Throughout just one single year, between 2013 and 2014, the amount of such medicine being used in animal husbandry has climbed by 3%, and most of these drugs were incorporated in the animals’ fodder and water supply.
Apparently, the most frequently used type of antibiotics has been tetracycline, which corresponded to 70% of all the medicine given to livestock. Also common were macrolides such as clarithromycin and erythromycin, as well as cephalosporins like Cephalexin (Keflex).
Meanwhile, Ron Phillips, a representative of the Animal Health Institute, who promotes the interests of various pharmaceutical companies, has rejected these accusations.
According to him, just because more antibiotics have been purchased by the food industry, it shouldn’t be automatically inferred that this has a detectable effect on the development of superbugs.
Image Source: Flickr