FDA to Limit Antibiotic Use in Farm Animals Raised for Meat

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FDA to Limit Antibiotic Use in Factory Farms

by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell

Earlier last week the FDA announced that it will begin to limit antibiotic use in farm animals raised for meat. Factory farms are responsible for the use of 80% of the antibiotics produced in the United States with an incredible 29 million pounds of antibiotics used in 2009 alone.

It has been proven that as of 2013, antibiotic-resistant infection claims more lives than AIDS. Two million people in the United States become sick with an antibiotic-resistant disease each year with 23,000 dying from the disease.

With antibiotic-resistant infection on the rise, the FDA has stepped in, limiting the use of antibiotics to encourage growth in healthy animals and requiring a veterinary prescription to treat sick livestock with the synthetic drugs.

Factory Farm Antibiotic Use May Trigger Food-Borne Illness

You may believe that if you are a vegetarian or rarely eat meat that your chances of contracting a food-borne illness would be pretty rare. Unfortunately, you’d be mistaken. Antibiotic-resistant strains such as E. coli and campylobacter bacteria can be traced back to animals raised for food production as their manure is used to fertilize produce (even organic).

In February of 2013, Taylor Farms had a major spinach recall due to an outbreak of E. coli bacteria. Later in August of that same year, their bagged salad was recalled due to a suspected cyclospora contamination. The Glass Onion Catering Company, which provides food for Trader Joe’s, recalled pre-packaged salads and sandwiches due to E. coli contamination in November of 2013.

Types of Bacteria Showing Resistance to Antibiotics

Resistance to antibiotics isn’t just limited to one or two strains of bacteria. According to a report released by the CDC, there are over a dozen different types of bacteria showing an “urgent” “serious” and “concerning” amount of resistance to current forms of synthetic antibiotic intervention.

These bacteria include:

1.     Acinetobacter

This gram-negative bacterium has been linked to the development of pneumonia and bloodstream infections in immunocompromised individuals. There are approximately 500 deaths yearly associated with these antibiotic-resistant infections.

2.     Anthrax

Anthrax is a highly-contagious infectious disease caused by the bacteria bacillus anthracis. If the infection is not treated in a matter of days, it becomes untreatable. With antibiotic resistance compounding this factor, it could contribute to wide-spread infection.

3.     Clostridium Difficile

Clostridium difficile (C. Diff) infection accounts for 250,000 infections per year and often affects patients already hospitalized for another infectious disease. Deaths from this condition have grown 400% between 2000 and 2007. An unconventional treatment called fecal transplant therapy has been shown to clear C. Diff in 95% of cases.

4.     Enterobacteriaceae

9,000 drug-resistant infections are caused by enterobacteriaceae each year with 50% of patients affected dying from complications. Those who work in healthcare facilities are most at risk for becoming infected with this bacterium.

5.     Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is responsible for 820,000 gynecological infections and the CDC has placed the threat level of this infection at urgent. It has become resistant to several antibiotics and is considered a serious public health threat due to its virulent nature.

6.     Group B Streptococcus

Pregnant women and newborns should be tested for Group B streptococcus as it is can easily be passed from mother to infant. This disease can be life-threatening to you and your child without prompt medical intervention. Thirty percent of pneumonia cases caused by Group B streptococcus are untreatable by conventional antibiotics.

7.     Klebsiella Pneumonia

Klebsiella pneumonia is an infectious gram-negative bacterium that can result in pneumonia, bacterial meningitis, and, in severe cases, liver abscess. This bacterium has shown to be resistant to a class of antibiotics known as carbapenems.

8.     Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)

MRSA is a virulent and highly-contagious bacterium that commonly affects frequent travelers, healthcare workers, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. Symptoms often begin as swollen, pus-filled abscesses, which graduate to cough, fever, and chills. It is the number one leading cause of healthcare-related illnesses.

9.     Neisseria Meningitides

Neisseria meningitides is one of the leading causes of bacterial meningitis among children. Though penicillin used to be the antibiotic of choice to treat this it, antibiotic resistance has now rendered it useless.

10.    Shigella

Since 2000, the bacterium shigella has become highly-resistant to various forms of synthetic antibiotics. Shigella is responsible for diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, and nausea, which can potentially cause toxic megacolon and sepsis. It can take months or even years for bowel habits to return to normal.

11.    Streptococcus Pneumoniae

According to the CDC, “Invasive pneumococcal disease means that bacteria invade parts of the body that are normally sterile, and when this happens, disease is usually severe, causing hospitalization or even death.” This form of strep has been shown to be resistant to penicillin, amoxicillin, and even the Z-pack.

12.    Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death from infectious diseases worldwide. In 2011, the CDC recorded 1,042 drug-resistant tuberculosis cases. Drug resistance is recorded to be highest among those aged 25-44.

13.    Typhoid Fever

Caused by salmonelli typhi, typhoid fever has been shown to be resistant to 67% of certain types of antibiotics. Typhoid fever accounts for over 2 million deaths worldwide and can lead to bowel perforation, toxic shock, and death.

14.    Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE)

Patients who regularly receive care in a hospital or clinic setting may be at increased susceptibility to VRE. Patients on dialysis, those using catheters, or those being treated for cancer are at increased risk for the development of this bacterium. With antibiotic-resistance up to 77%, conventional treatment options are almost completely unavailable to treat this disease.

15.    Campylobacter

Responsible for many of the recent outbreaks of food-borne illness, campylobacter is responsible for 13,000 hospitalizations per year. The Centers for Disease Control recommends avoidance of inappropriate use of antibiotics in farm animals to prevent this spread and subsequent recalls of various food items.

Natural Resources for Antibiotic Resistance

The new proposed FDA limit on antibiotic use in farm animals raised for meat may help prevent the serious antibiotic-resistant health epidemic from worsening but it’s up to you to protect yourself and your family from what’s already out there now.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Keep your immune system strong through a wholesome diet, ultra high-grade supplements, and natural antibiotics.
  1. Avoid Triclosan, the synthetic antibacterial agent used in hand sanitizer. Despite what you’ve been lead to believe, it greatly increases your likelihood of susceptibility to bacterial infection. Use ethanol-based antibacterial agents instead.
  1. When you travel or visit your local gym, take steps to protect yourself from the most heavily-contaminated areas.

Antibiotic-resistant disease is a serious worldwide health concern. I believe the FDA is doing the right thing by proposing to limit the amount of antibiotics used in farm animals. Doing this could cut down on outbreaks of food-borne illness and prevent the epidemic of infectious disease from worsening to critical levels.

What do you think of the FDA’s proposal to limit the use of antibiotics in factory farms? Do you believe it will be enough to make a difference or could this be a case of too little, too late?

Resources:

http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/animal-ag-foodborne-illness-antibiotic-resistance
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501134203.htm
http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/threat-report-2013/pdf/ar-threats-2013-508.pdf
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8994787
http://jcm.asm.org/content/43/7/3162
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22561624
http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/Media-office/Press-releases/2013/Press-releases/WTP054930.htm

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