Nov 2017Past Articles

Antibiotic Diet: A New Epidemic

By: Schondra Aytch

As America becomes more aware of the effect food has on our health, we encourage restaurants to supply healthy alternatives, fast food chains to provide responsibly sourced food and food-producing companies to have a stronger environmental awareness. Fortunately, these changes have assisted in an economic boom in the food market. In 2015, natural and organic foods had a ten percent increase in sales growth, yet there could be something more dangerous than GMO’s in our chicken. As antibiotic resistance increases all over the world, it is possible that our foods are transporting it.

Since the 1940’s, antibiotics have been given to animals as a preventive measure to minimize illness. Later it became a way to maximize growth in chicken and cows, a practice majorly looked down upon today. While regulations and watchdog groups have kicked in to keep food-producing companies mindful of abusing antibiotics, the rising levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria in both humans and animals have concerned international agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO). There are over two million cases of people with antibiotic resistance each year, and 23,000 of them are fatal.

While other countries suffer from this epidemic through poor medical care andover prescribing, Americans are likely eating contaminated food. As I mentioned earlier, many companies will give low dosages of antibiotics to livestock in their feed to maximize the animals’ eating habit or to defend against infections from poor holding environments. According to Healthline, In 2011, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. were for use in food-producing animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cracked down on antibiotics used for this purpose by only allowing the drug to be used in controlling an infection by bacteria.

While many of these foods are closely examined for antibiotic resistant drugs, it is impossible for all poultry to not have any residue. Still the aggressive monitoring of meat makes a positive impact on minimizing the number of people exposed to resistant bacteria. Many argue that there is no legitimate evidence that links poultry to the antibiotic resistant phenomenon. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) has mentioned that the likelihood of an American ingesting resistant bacteria through food is “extremely low.”

There could be truth to this claim. Animals who receive antibiotics, are given a certain amount of time to excrete as much of the residue as possible. Yet, I still wonder if there could be different standards given to raw meat sold in a grocery store compared to a ready to eat cheeseburger from McDonalds. There is also a question of whether if all meat is monitored equally. The Chain Reaction, a report created by Friends of The Earth – an international activist movement, collaborates with like-minded groups to rate popular chain restaurants on whether their meat is antibiotic free. The report gave Panera Bread and Chipotle grade “A” for cutting the antibiotic routines of all their meat, McDonalds received a “C” because there were no dedication to changing the antibiotic routines for beef and pork. Considering that resistant bacteria could form from bad hygiene and undercooking makes fast food chains easier at being a threat to the public health and a spreader of resistant bacteria.

Organic meat also is affected by this. Poultry that is “raised without antibiotics” is still susceptible to resistant bacteria and most likely will have some form of antibiotic resistance. Also, because Organic and non-GMO chicken isn’t routinely receiving antibiotics, there are higher levels of bacteria like Salmonella and Escherichia coli. The upside is that organic meat’s bacteria is likely less resistant and thus more treatable.

A high priority for the WHO is the fight to end bacteria resistance through the creation of better antibiotics. Last month CNN reported that there are 33 medicines, 25 of them are modified antibiotics that could possibly cure resistant bacteria. While the WHO makes strides, they believe it is not moving fast enough at the rate resistant bacteria in the world is increasing. A little over a year ago, a meeting considered “high level” between major world leaders took place in New York City to begin a global initiative to end antibiotic resistance.

As minor infections become a threat to public health and superbugs form from resistant bacteria, the WHO has created World Antibiotic Awareness Week. Started in mid-November of 2015, the global campaign’s focuses to keep international communities mindful of the effects of bacteria resistance. Infections this year it’ll be held from November 13th to November 19th and their campaign pushes everyone to seek a qualified healthcare professional for advice on using antibiotics. The United Nations (UN), Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) and FDA also participate in the activism by not only surveillancing different bacteria, but also providing information on how to prevent antibiotic resistance.


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