For more than 30 years, critics of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been trying to get the agency to regulate antibiotics out of meat. Farmers give these drugs to animals to fatten them up for slaughter. And you’ve been unsuspectedly consuming them for your whole life.
This week, the FDA announced a program designed to eventually eliminate the use of antibiotics for increasing the weight of animals used for meat. Skeptics wonder if the program will be enforced strictly enough to make a difference in the safety of our food.
However, a persistent FDA critic, Dr. Stuart B. Levy, at Tufts, who is the president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, thinks the new policy is good first step to banning these drugs from use in animals. He told The New York Times: “I’m kind of happy. For all of us who’ve been struggling with this issue, this is the biggest step that’s been taken in the last 30 years.”
Unfortunately, the FDA will still allow antibiotics to be given to animals to prevent disease. As Dr. Keeve Nachman, a researcher with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, points out, antibiotics should be used only when prescribed for a specific animal health problem by a veterinarian. Otherwise, agriculture companies will have an antibiotic loophole big enough to drive a herd of cows through.
Meanwhile, the antibiotics on our dinner plates are thought to contribute to the growth of antibiotic-resistant infections. Two million Americans came down with drug-resistant infections last year. According to research, more than 60 U.S. citizens die from these infections every day.