Monday, November 24, 2008

Turkey's good for you, but is turkey farming? Scientists debate effects of antibiotics

"It's hard to find a nutrition expert who doesn't think eating turkey is good for your health," writes Karen Ravn of the Los Angles Times. "Ironically, though, many scientists worry that turkey farming may be bad for public health in general," largely because antibiotics used to treat sick birds and prevent disease might spur evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. (Times photo)

"In 2001, the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for a healthy environment, estimated that every year in this country 3 million pounds of antimicrobials are used in human medicine," writes Ravn. "By contrast, the organization estimated that 24.6 million pounds are used in food animals for nontherapeutic purposes." Francine Bradley, extension poultry specialist in the Animal Science Department at University of California-Davis, isn't worried. She told Ravn that antibiotics "cost a lot of money, so no one gives them indiscriminately. Besides if they've overused them previously, they won't get a good response when they really need them."

Another concern, that antibiotics will be transferred from turkeys to humans, has been largely dispelled. "Even critics of antibiotic use see this danger as minimal, at least in turkeys," Ravn writes. "A withdrawal time has been established for every antibiotic, based on testing how long it remains in the bird after usage has stopped. So if the withdrawal time is, say, two weeks, the antibiotic cannot be given for at least two weeks before the turkey goes to market."

The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture routinely test turkeys for antibiotic residue and the results show the birds to be 99 percent residue-free, according to a spokesperson for the National Turkey Federation. Who wants to carve? (Read more)

No comments: