Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
where it would accept meat from animals given antibiotics, so
long as the antibiotics were given in response to a clear sickness.
There is little reason to be concerned about antibiotic resi-
dues in food. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food is a greater
concern. In April 2012 an alarming report found that most
turkey, pork, and beef (and close to half of chickens) sampled
from supermarkets did indeed contain antibiotic-resistant
bacteria. A few months earlier Consumer Reports announced it
had sampled pork products and found many contained bacte-
ria, some of which were resistant to antibiotics.
Though they sound scary, the stories are a bit deceiv-
ing. Here are several things to consider. First, you can find
antibiotic-resistant bacteria anywhere, including furniture,
your navel, and your nose. Second, most of the bacteria found
on pork were a strain called Yersinia enterocolitica that the USDA
does not test for, because even the most scientific tests results
in lots of false positives (i.e., the tests say the bacteria are pres-
ent when in reality they are not). Third, many of the antibiotics
the bacteria were resistant to are not used by humans.
If those two reports still seem scary, one can purchase
food from animals raised without antibiotics (including
organic food), where the animals probably harbor fewer
antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They might, however, contain
more bacteria overall.
Though it remains a controversy, both the United States
and the European Union are taking measures to reduce
antibiotic use in agriculture. What would happen if it were
banned in the United States? To gauge the impact of such
a move we can look to Denmark, where in 1995 a ban was
placed on routinely giving antibiotics (except if the ani-
mal was sick). At first, total antibiotic use rose, as animals
became sicker and required more antibiotics to cure infec-
tions. However, the overall dose per pig has since fallen and
there are fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria in Danish meat than
in the meat Denmark imports. Some say the Danes have expe-
rienced health benefits from the ban, while others claim that
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