Nowadays the demand for food products that are raised without antibiotics is increasing. You can see the considerable price difference in “antibiotic free” chickens compared to commercially raised chickens.
New research shows the overuse of antibiotics in food producing animals has led to an increase in superbugs, i.e., bacteria that becomes increasingly resistant to stronger doses of antibiotics.
These superbugs can cause serious illnesses in humans.
On the other hand, some scientists suggest that giving antibiotics to food producing animals has very little risk to humans.
The use of antibiotics in food producing animals
Farm animals like poultry (chickens, turkeys, and ducks), cows and pigs, have been subjected to injections with antibiotics since the 1940s. The purpose of giving these injections was and still is, to prevent an illness from spreading or to treat infections.
The low doses of antibiotics are also added to animal feed to promote growth, with the understanding a healthy animal grows faster than a weak animal. In the food production chain, this means an increased production of milk or meat in a shorter period of time.
The agricultural sector also has widespread usage of antibiotics.
Is the level of antibiotics used in your food low?
In spite of what many people think, we actually consume extremely low amounts of antibiotics through animal foods.
Animal products go through rigid testing by local veterinary departments, before being cleared for release to the public for consumption. If any product fails the testing, it is not allowed to be sold and must be destroyed.
In the U.S. there is even a drug withdrawal period animals or animal produce must undergo, before being ready for public consumption. This withdrawal period gives the drugs time to completely leave the animal’s system.
Is there evidence of antibiotics in food directly harming people?
There is no evidence to support the theory that antibiotics in food products can harm our health.
Overdosing animals with antibiotics
When used properly according to instructions, antibiotics are deemed safe and can prevent infections.
The problem arises when there is excessive or overuse of antibiotics. Excessive use of antibiotics make them less effective to fight off infections.
This is the same problem with humans, as when the same antibiotic is repeatedly given, the bacteria or virus mutates, builds up immunity, and becomes stronger. It will take an even stronger dose of antibiotics to fight off subsequent rounds of the same infection.
In the end, the original antibiotic dose becomes ineffective to fight against the new and stronger bacteria or virus.
Resistant bacteria found in food products
Common harmful bacteria found in raw foods include Salmonella, Campylobacter and E.coli.
Food products labelled “antibiotic free” or “organic” do not mean the products are free from resistant bacteria. These foods do contain bacteria that are less resistant than regular products dosed with antibiotics.
Resistant bacteria in food products can pass on to humans
New and resistant bacteria can be passed from food products to humans in a few ways.
Resistant bacterial in meat from an animal carrying it can be passed on to humans, if it is not properly handled or cooked thoroughly.
Eating raw foods such as salads which have not been washed thoroughly, can end up in the bacteria being passed on to the person.
Possible consequences of resistant bacteria entering the human body
When we unknowingly consume resistant bacteria, there are consequences which include:
- Increased severity of current infections
- New infections
- Vomiting and diarrhoea
Doctors always find it difficult to treat resistant bacteria, as a stronger antibiotic has to be developed to fight off a resistant bacteria.
In conclusion: Scientists have not found a direct link between the usage of antibiotics in food products leading to resistant bacteria infections in humans.
Overuse of antibiotics in food products is a problem. Such practices may lead to resistant bacteria mutating and getting stronger. However, stringent testing by local authorities should keep this in check.
Always practice good food hygiene during preparation and ensure your food is cooked properly.
The contents of today’s article on antibiotics in food should not be taken as medical advice. Readers should always consult their doctors when in doubt.
20th October 2020 22:30
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