It’s widely known that since the 1970s, American meat producers have been regularly dosing livestock with low-level antibiotics. What most people don’t realize is that these antibiotics aren’t being used to treat disease. Their main purpose is to boost animals’ growth.
It may sound harmless, but giving antibiotics to cattle, hogs and other animals raised for human consumption becomes a big problem once we ingest their meat.
Have You Heard of “Superbugs?”
Some of the drugs meat producers give livestock are the same ones doctors use to treat disease, and researchers have warned for years that this overuse is causing antibiotics to lose their power. Resistant bacteria, or “superbugs,” are those that have learned to outsmart antibiotics, and when they infect humans, they can’t be treated. According to a report in the New York Times, superbugs lead to two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths per year.
But all that might be changing.
The Chicken On Your Plate
According to a new regulation from the FDA, animal producers will be prohibited from using antibiotics for any other purpose than to treat disease. By the end of 2016, they’ll have to “obtain authorization from a licensed veterinarian” before each use.
Equally encouraging is the news that President Obama is ordering the Presidential Food Service to commit to only serving meats and poultry that are hormone- and antibiotic-free.
Manufacturers and restaurants are also starting to make changes. Panera and Chipotle have a long history of restricting antibiotics, and recently, major meat suppliers Tyson and Perdue cut back on their antibiotics use. Even McDonald’s pledged to only source antibiotic-free chicken.
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