by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Antibiotics

Feb 13 2018

Overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture: more data (still no action)

An article in The Guardian alerted me to a new report comparing antibiotic use in the UK to that in the US.  The Guardian explains the problem:

The contribution of farm antibiotic use to human resistance is widely recognised, including by the 2016 O’Neill AMR report, the World Health Organisation and the European Food Safety Authority.

The routine overuse of antibiotics in farm animals creates perfect conditions for the emergence of resistant bacteria, killing off susceptible bacteria while allowing stronger resistant bacteria to survive.

The report comes from the UK advocacy group, Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics.

The report finds that per ton of livestock, antibiotic:

  • Use in US pigs is about twice as high as use in UK pigs.
  • Use in US chickens is about 3 times as high as use in UK chickens.
  • Use in US turkeys is about 5 times as high as use in UK turkeys.
  • Use in US cattle is about 9-16 times as high as use in UK cattle.
  • Use in all food animals in the US is about 5 times as high as use in the UK.

The report includes a table of US sales of medically important antibiotics (kilograms active ingredient):This group has lots of other reports on specific aspects of antibiotic use, including one from October 2017 on farm antibiotic use in the U.S.

The FDA, which has an entire web page on animal antibiotics, has made valiant efforts over the years to control antibiotic use in farm animals, but these have not gotten very far.

The threat to the effectiveness of antibiotics in humans is real and affects all of us.  At least 20 organizations in the US are advocating for more responsible use of antibiotics in farm animals.

Their efforts deserve support.

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Nov 14 2017

WHO: Restrict medically important antibiotics in farm animals

The World Health Organization has issued guidelines on use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animalsIts latest report recommends:

  • An overall reduction in use
  • Complete restriction in use for growth promotion
  • Complete restriction of use for infectious disease prevention
  • Not using them for disease treatment

For comparison, the FDA bans these antibiotics for growth promotion, but permits when recommended by a veterinarian when necessary for an animal’s health.

Antibiotics used in food animal production amount to 80 percent of antibiotic consumption worldwide.

Studies show that restricting antibiotic use in animals will reduce their prevalence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

As you might expect, opinions about this report are divided.  Consumer groups, who have been advocating for these practices for years, are eager for the guidelines to be implemented immediately.  So are companies like Perdue, which are already doing this.

Opposition comes from the meat industry, of course, but also the chief scientist of USDA who must not have read the guidelines carefully, if at all.

The WHO guidelines are not in alignment with U.S. policy and are not supported by sound science. The recommendations erroneously conflate disease prevention with growth promotion in animals.

The WHO report may help advocates get some long-awaited action on antibiotics, but it’s hard to be optimistic.

I just came across this report from the CDC: 2017 Antibiotic use in the U.S.: Progress and Opportunities It is This report is notable for focusing exclusively on antibiotics in human health.  It excludes any discussion of antibiotic use in animals—as if there were no relationship.

It’s time to bring agricultural policies in line with health policies!

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Oct 26 2017

Meat on the agenda: Bacon and Fast Food antibiotics

I’m collecting reports about meat.

The first is The Bacon Report from MeatPoultry.com.

 

And here’s Restaurant Report Card: What’s in your fast food meat?

May 10 2017

Will we ever stop misusing animal antibiotics?

Politico ProAg reports that the International Poultry Council will soon issue a statement advising the poultry industry to:

  • Stop using antibiotics critical to human medicine to promote livestock growth and prevent disease,
  • Only use these drugs when prescribed by a veterinarian for treatment of disease,
  • Be transparent about the amount of antibiotics it uses and why.

The poultry industry routinely uses antibiotics in feed and water despite major efforts to stop this practice.

Government agencies concerned about increasing resistance to animal antibiotics have long wanted their use stopped or managed appropriately.

Trying to stop misuse of animal antibiotics has a long history.

The animal agriculture industry has fought all attempts to curtain antibiotic use.

The word has gotten through to the poultry industry.  Let’s hope this works.

Jan 2 2017

The FDA’s report on antibiotic use in farm animals: still increasing

The FDA recently published its Annual Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed in 2015 for Use in Food-Producing Animals.

The report finds bad news and good news.

The bad news :

The report shows that sales and distribution of all antimicrobials increased 1 percent from 2014 through 2015, tying for the lowest annual increase since 2009. The percentage of those antimicrobials that are considered medically important in human medicine increased by 2 percent from 2014 through 2015.

The good news: This ties for the lowest annual increase since 2009.

But here’s a summary of antibiotic use in animal agriculture:—9.7 million kilograms of medically important drugs (that’s about 20 million pounds) and another 5.9 million kilograms of antibiotics that are not important medically. (about 13 million pounds).

The report comes with a Q and A.  Here is an example:

Does a summary report exist for antimicrobial sales and distribution for human drugs?  Yes. Please see: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm261160.htm.

Then go to: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM319435.pdf

3.28 million kilograms of selected systemic antibacterial drugs were sold during year 2010 and around 3.29 million kilograms were sold during year 2011. Active ingredient amoxicillin had the highest proportion of total kilograms sold of all selected systemic antibacterial drug products throughout the time period examined.

OK, but the objective needs to be to decrease use of antimicrobials in animal agriculture and use them only for treatment of illnesses, not prevention.

 

Aug 3 2016

McDonald’s joins the food movement???

McDonald’s ran a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times:*

“At McDonald’s we’re on a journey: What’s important to you is important to us.”

The ad says McDonald’s is taking these actions [with my comments]:

  • Removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets and other items [Fine, but no big deal in my book.]
  • Removed high fructose corn syrup from hamburger buns [And replaced it with what?  Sugar?  This matters? I’m guessing the price of HFCS must be close enough to the price of sugar to make this possible.]**
  • Committed to only source chickens that have not been treated with antibiotics [OK.  Now we’re talking important.  For this alone,  McDonald’s deserves high praise.  My only question: by when?]*** 

The ad also summarizes the company’s additional actions, done and promised:

  • Burgers are 100% beef
  • Eggs are freshly cracked
  • Salads feature baby spinach, kale, Tuscan red leaf lettuce, and carrots
  • Buttermilk chicken uses real buttermilk
  • Milk is sourced from cows not treated with rbST
  • 2 billion sides of fruit were served (including 59 million clementines)
  • Espresso beans are Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • Eggs will be cage-free by 2025

Amazing, no?

It’s worth a field trip to see how all this works in practice.  I’m on it.

Additions, corrections, and updates

*Jill Cornish writes that the ad also appeared in the Washington Post.

**I get a Bingo for this one.  Martijn Katan writes: “The price of beet sugar fell below that of HCFS in April 2015. By June 2016, 1 lb of HFCS-55 cost $0.412 as opposed to $0.297 for beet sugar.”  He even sends a reference: www.cornnaturally.com/Economics-of-HFCS/price-calculator.aspx

***Andy Smith points out that “In 2015, McDonald’s announced that it would stop buying chicken raised with non-therapeutic, medically-important antibiotics by 2017– but a few weeks ago announced that it had already done so.”  He too provides a reference: See QSR. “McDonald’s Eliminates Antibiotics From Its Chicken,” QSR Magazine, August 2, 2016. Retrieved at https://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/eliminates-antibiotics-its-chicken.

Thank you readers!  Much appreciated.

Apr 28 2015

Is the food movement winning?

Brian Lehrer asked me a question this morning that is well worth pondering.

The gist: Are the recent actions taken by food companies an indication that consumers are having an effect at the expense of science—and at the expense of focusing on more important food issues such as too much sugar, obesity, and diabetes?

He cited these recent events:

  • Tyson’s says it will phase out human antibiotics in broiler production.
  • McDonald’s says it will source chicken that has not been treated with antibiotics.
  • PepsiCo says it is taking aspartame out of its diet sodas (it’s the #1 reason given for not drinking diet cola).
  • Chipotle says it will source GMO-free ingredients.
  • Nestlé says it is removing artificial colors from its chocolate candy.
  • Kraft says it is taking the yellow dyes out of its Mac n’ Cheese.

To all of them, I say it’s about time.

None of these is necessary in the food supply.

There are plenty of scientific questions about all of them, although some—antibiotics, for example—are more troubling than others.

If voting with your fork can achieve these results, they pave the way for taking on the much more difficult issues.

These are big steps forward.  They matter.

They should inspire other companies to do the same.

Dec 27 2013

More on “profligate” use of antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals

The New England Journal of Medicine has an editorial on why we need to stop using antibiotics to promote the growth of farm animals and make sure they are only used for therapeutic purposes.

Otherwise, bacteria will become resistant to them and the antibiotics won’t work in us.

This figure from the article illustrates the problem:

As writers in the Journal wrote a year ago, we know what to do about the problem: Ban antibiotic use for everything other than disease treatment.

The FDA is taking baby steps in this direction.  How about a new year’s resolution to speed up the process?

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