This blog may be preaching to the choir but have you ever heard people say they buy meat “raised without antibiotics” because they don’t want to eat meat with chemicals in it? Well as many of you know, that marketing tagline has several implications that susceptible consumers may not realize.
According to the USDA, the title “no antibiotics added” requires the producer to display proof that the animal was raised without antibiotics administered at any point in their life. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is 110 years old. That is 110 years of an agency solely dedicated to food safety and oversight of drug labeling and use. The FDA has a list of drugs (mostly antibiotics) that are absolutely forbidden for use in food producing animal as those drugs have been scientifically proven to have detrimental effects when residues are consumed. Most other drugs have withdrawal times for meat and milk. The animal may not be milked or slaughtered for human consumption within a certain time period so drugs administered for the health of the animal are not present at too high of a concentration to affect human health. These set points or tolerance levels are determined and supported by research prior to a drug even getting approved for the veterinary market.
There is the belief that taking antibiotics out of meat consumption production lines is going to have a significant impact on multi-drug resistant microbes. Antibiotic use in meat production industry may certainly have an impact; however the nature of the effect has yet to be scientifically proven. In other words, a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella causing significant gastrointestinal disease could be the result of several courses of antibiotics prescribed over their life by their own medical doctor, resistant bugs from on-farm use of antibiotics or in the entire phase of meat processing and retail in which contamination can occur. It’s difficult to place all the blame on one of those parties alone. Judicious use of antibiotics on the human AND veterinary side of medicine is key to combating this growing concern.
I’ll be the first to admit - there are organic and antibiotic-free farms that raise healthy livestock but the fact of the matter is not all organic farms are the same. An organic animal centric business model stresses the importance of disease prevention so as to be able to avoid the use of antibiotics while keeping the health of the animals their top priority.
So next time you hear about those “darn antibiotics in my food”, send them over to this blog or give them a friendly reminder – raised without antibiotics does not always mean healthier livestock.