Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Antibiotics in Meat: Will FDA Ignore Judge's Order to Ban It?

With each juicy bite of exquisitely grilled steak, you're also downing a dose of antibiotics. Same for luscious, barbecued spareribs. For savory, roasted chicken. For carne asada and carnitas. For Chinese beef and broccoli and kung pao chicken. Even for a burger or simple ham sandwich.

In the U.S., nearly all non-organic beef, pork, and chicken is tainted with antibiotics fed to fatten the animals into profitable robustness, and to ward off diseases and infections caused by extreme overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in modern industrial "farm" factories. 

Problem is that constant exposure to antibiotics is causing meat-lovers to become resistant to these medications... and newly vulnerable to a wide range of diseases and infections, from strep throat and pneumonia to intestinal, skin, and other infections. 

And people who are allergic to antibiotics are unknowingly ingesting the dreaded medications with each bite of meat. 

U.S. News and World Report writes:
"About 80 percent of all antibiotics in America are used in livestock... Recently, doctors have discovered that certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria that infect humans have developed drug resistance in livestock--something that the Centers for Disease Control and some researchers had warned for years would happen."
 Will the FDA Comply with Judicial Order to Quell Antibiotics in Livestock?
Good news! The FDA will finally clamp down on the use of antibiotics in livestock. 

Maybe. If forced to by federal courts.  If Congress isn't too fearful of the powerful meat lobby... 

A U.S. Magistrate Judge ruled last week that "the FDA must require manufacturers of two popular classes of antibiotics, penicillins and tetracyclines, to prove that the use of their drugs in livestock doesn't contribute to the development of drug-resistant bacteria and that the drugs are safe for human consumption."

The suit was originally filed first in 1999, then in 2005, by a host of health and environmental groups, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

But will the FDA comply with the judge's order to clamp down on livestock growers? Or will the FDA again find a way to ignore the public good, and instead  opt to appease Congress and the industrial food lobby? 

Based on history, I sadly have my doubts...  The New York Times reports:
"By the 1970s, public health officials had become worried that overuse was leading to the development of killer infections resistant to treatment. In 1977, the F.D.A. announced that it would begin banning some agricultural uses. But the House and Senate appropriations committees passed resolutions against the ban, and the agency retreated.
“ 'In the intervening years, the scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown, and there is no evidence the F.D.A. has changed its position that such uses are not shown to be safe,' Judge Katz wrote in his order."
Specifically, Judge Katz directed the FDA to inform drug makers and livestock producers to plan for a ban use of penicillin and tetracycline to promote growth in animals, unless they show that both are safe for human consumption. 

Since the ruling did not cover antibiotics used  to combat livestock diseases and infections, it leaves huge loopholes for producers. But Judge Katz' ruling is a healthy restart for the long-stalled process of removing antibiotics from America's meat supply. 

The FDA's non-committal reaction to the judge's rebuke and mild mandate?   
 "An FDA spokesperson said it's too early for the agency to announce its next move 'We are studying the opinion and considering appropriate next steps,' she said," per US News and World Report
What Can You Do? 

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