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Red Alert! Antibiotics, Meat & Poultry

Antibiotics are routinely given to pigs, poultry and beef cattle to treat disease, prevent disease and to help them grow faster.  Antibiotic use is highest in animals raised in large, factory-type farms, because of the close living conditions and unsanitary environment.  The routine use of antibiotics in animals is dangerous to human health.  Here’s why:

*  The regular use of antibiotics in animals encourages the development and spread of bacteria or “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotics.  Research shows an alarming increase in this type of bacteria.

*  According to the World Health Organization, the rate at which bacterial strains are developing a resistance to antibiotics far outpaces the rate at which scientists are developing new medicines that can kill the strains.

*  Last year (February 2011), researchers with “CBC’s Marketplace” bought 100 samples of chicken from supermarkets in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.  Two-thirds of the chicken samples tested had bacteria resistant to at least one antibiotic.  Some samples were resistant to between six and eight types of antibiotics.

*  This year, in the United States (September 2012), the federal government reported that a specific bacteria resistant to many types of antibiotics had increased tenfold on chicken breasts.

*  If humans are exposed to these bacteria (by eating improperly cooked meat or poultry or the unsafe handling of raw meat or poultry), they risk developing an infection that can’t be treated with antibiotics.  This can happen in the home or when dining out.  Exposure to this type of bacteria is especially harmful to those that are most vulnerable:  children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

*  Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can also be spread to humans through water, air and manure-fertilized soils.

*  Cooking meat properly kills all harmful bacteria.  It is, however, still important to buy meat from animals raised without antibiotics to reduce the spread and development of antibiotic resistant bacteria at all levels.

Good advice:  When possible buy meat and poultry that comes from animals that were raised without the use of antibiotics.  Some stores, such as Whole Foods, guarantee that all meat and poultry sold in its stores are never treated with antibiotics.

Lessons Learned:

  • The routine use of antibiotics in animals leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be harmful to human health.  Handle raw meat and poultry carefully and cook it properly.  Buy meat that comes from animals raised without antibiotics.




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