Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More concern about livestock antibiotics' effect on people creates more pressure for regulation

"More and more Americans — many of them living far from barns and pastures — are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics," The Associated Press reports. "These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people."

Reporters Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza write that they looked at the issue for six months. They start their story with a compelling dateline (Frankenstein, Mo.) and anecdote, about a farmer who nearly lost his leg after being gored by a boar with a strep infection that was resistant to antibiotics. After finding that he and his pigs all has the same resistances, he "tossed his hypodermic needles, sacked his buckets of antibiotic-laced feed, slaughtered his herd and started anew," Mason and Mendoza report. They also write about an Iowa farmer who feeds his pigs an antibiotic that is not absorbed by their digestive systems.

"Farm groups and pharmaceutical companies argue that drugs keep animals healthy and meat costs low, and have defeated a series of proposed limits on their use," the reportyers write. "Thirteen percent of the antibiotics administered on farms last year were fed to healthy animals to make them grow faster. Antibiotics also save as much as 30 percent in feed costs among young swine, although the savings fade as pigs get older, according to a new USDA study." Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., is fighting for a law that would ban giving antibiotics to animals unless they are sick. (Read more)

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