Friday, January 6, 2012

antibiotics update

caged chickens | photo: sioda
Just a few days ago I wrote about the FDA withdrawing legislation to mandate less use of antibiotics in the food supply.  Now it turns out that earlier this week they did issue some legislation limiting the use of one type of antibiotic, cephalosporins. This class of antibiotics is not given to animals directly in their feed but instead issued, usually, prior to slaughter.  The FDA is concerned that this type of antibiotic is so important for use in humans (especially in life-threatening cases such as meningitis) that over use in animals can potentially cause bacterial resistance, thereby limiting it's usefulness in humans.

Since cephalosporins are a "last resort" type of drug it's important that their effectiveness not be compromised by over-usage in the animal industry.  However the FDA does not completely ban the use of this class of antibiotics, merely limiting it instead.

My concern with all of this is that there is still far too much antibiotic usage in this country in animal production.  I'm not sure, and was unable to find numbers, how much this limit reduces the total antibiotic usage in the animal production industry.  But the latest numbers show more than 70%.  So I have to believe that this limit provides only a modest reduction.  It still means that the vast majority of antibiotics used in this country are used to allow producers to raise animals in inhumane, unhealthy, confined and condensed operations.  Where is the sense in that?  Where is the logic behind an agency that is presumably supposed to monitor and protect the food supply which instead kowtows to major corporations and their bottom line.  Where is our compassion as living, sentient beings, for those beings whose purpose is to be raised for food?

I find myself skeptical that this "limited use" will actually be limited and am now waiting for the headline that proclaims a new class of bacterial infection that has successfully overcome cephalosporins and is wreaking havoc in hospitals and medical settings across the country.  In the meantime I continue to look for and source the best quality, most humane meat sources available for my family and community.  I hope those of you who eat meat are able to do the same for yours.

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