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Too many antibiotics in meat

Protect you
Released July 15, 2010

By Lise Bergeron

Beef producers, pork and poultry are using too many antibiotics, which creates increased resistance of bacteria and a serious risk to human health.

Photo: iStockphoto
In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that the use of antibiotics to accelerate the growth of food animals poses a serious threat to human health.

Over the last 50 years, producers have realized that antibiotics had the effect of not only treat and prevent the spread of infection, but also to promote the growth of animals.

Thus some antimicrobial agents widely used in human medicine - penicillin and tetracycline, in particular - found themselves on a daily basis in the feed given to animals.

However, overuse of this class of drugs promotes resistance of pathogenic bacteria. Result: it is becoming increasingly difficult, both in animals and humans to treat infections that previously responded very well to these antibiotics.

"We must use these drugs very carefully if we want to preserve the effectiveness and minimize bacterial resistance," said Bernadette Dunham, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA.

The US agency proposes new guidelines to address the threat. Among the proposed measures: Limit antibiotics strictly therapeutic use and permit the use only under the supervision of a veterinarian.

And Canada?

From this side of the border, the Canadian Committee on Antibiotic Resistance explains that "bacteria and genes, including resistant genes, can pass between human ecosystems, animals and other", and that this can cause, including "an increased incidence of infections caused by resistant pathogens in humans and possibilities of treatment failure among animals and human beings."

Health Canada estimates that the problem is serious, but puts the responsibility ... to adjust the consumers. Indeed, of the advice of the Ministry on its website, one finds this pearl: "Encourage farmers to give antibiotics to their animals only when necessary."

More realistically, the only way to get around the problem is to choose the certified organic meat, which is also free of growth hormones and pesticide residues.

Besides the organic sector, few Quebec producers have placed on the market of products derived from animals raised without antibiotics. Protect You devotes an article to the issue in its edition of August 2010 ("Carnivores but demanding!").

The European Union, for its part, already banned the use of antibiotics and growth hormones in beef animals.

For more information, see the website of the Canadian Integrated Program for Monitoring Antimicrobial Resistance (CIPARS).