Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The FDA hears you, kinda

Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 2:03 PM

Because of public concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is urging meat producers to lay off the juice. "The juice" in this case is antibiotics.

They pump — literally, antibiotics are in the animal's food and water — their livestock full of the drugs so that they can grow bigger, fatter, seemingly healthier meat products for us to consume. (And, let's be real, so they can make more money, faster.) The problem is this: that practice is one of the things that has led to antibiotic resistance in both livestock and humans.

Essentially, the bacteria the antibiotics are intended to fight are evolving and becoming stronger, making it more difficult to fight them off. Enter methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and resistant strains of tuberculosis and pneumonia. These antibiotic-resistant bacterium are killers because our drugs aren't evolving fast enough to combat them. Scientists believe that inaction on the matter could hurdle us back to a time when we didn't have any antibiotics at all.

The FDA now admits that antibiotic use in meat production poses "a serious public health threat." They'd like to see meat producers only use antibiotics when the animals actually need them, instead of using them to prevent problems they don't already have.

It's akin to the warnings from our physicians to avoid using antibiotics unless we actually have a bacterial infection.

Makes sense, right?

Of course, right now, the FDA is only suggesting the change, not mandating it, which has public health advocates, like Keep Antibiotics Working, frustrated.

On the other side, meat producers are not thrilled about the FDA telling them how to do their jobs. They swear antibiotics are necessary to keep the animals healthy (and to get them as big and profitable as possible, as fast as possible).

Here's a peek at the science behind the issue:

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