The meat you eat: Antibiotics in our food
Each year, 23,000 Americans die and eight million are hospitalized as a result of antibiotic-resistant infections, and it has nothing to do with prescription medication. Here are some reasons why you may want to take a closer look at what is on your plate.
It might look good, but what is added to beef, pork and poultry has the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and hospitals all over the U.S.
“80 percent of the antibiotics used in this country are used in animal agriculture,” said Amy Collins, senior clinical advisor for Health Care Without Harm in Boston. “That is 30 million pounds of antibiotics used every year to treat animals that aren’t even sick.”
Antibiotics are fed to livestock to prevent disease and promote growth. While it’s not a new practice, Dr. Collins says it’s time to stop.
“This practice of giving them low-dose antibiotics in their food on a daily basis is the perfect opportunity to breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” Collins said.
These antibiotic-resistant bacteria from meats can be passed on to others, making once treatable conditions more problematic.
“There are many patients who are difficult to treat because they have resistance to antibiotics,” said Tom Wagstaff, director of nutrition and food services for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.
Government tests of raw supermarket meat found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81 percent of ground turkey, 69 percent of pork chops, 55 percent of ground beef and 39 percent of chicken.
Spearheaded by Health Care Without Harm, hospitals around the U.S. like Spaulding Rehabilitation are now serving meat antibiotic-free.
“In the long run, it is far more efficient in health care to purchase antibiotic-free meat than it is to have patients stay longer in hospitals,” Wagstaff said.
A practice they hope other hospitals, restaurants and supermarkets will follow.
So what should you look for? Experts recommend buying meat labeled USDA certified organic. And if you’re handling raw meat, make sure to wash your hands.