Sustainable Food Guide
|Environmental Practice at Work © 2005|
|Antibiotic Issues... |
When first discovered, antibiotics were the miracle cure, the 'magic bullet' to kill bacterial infections. Within the last 100 years previously fatal infections have become mere inconveniences. But abuse of antibiotics through over prescription and residues in food has resulted in the development of strains of bacteria that again threaten life. When bacteria are exposed to antibiotics they develop ways to survive and become resistant to them. Bacteria then simply multiply. Diseases that were once virtually wiped out are mutating, and resisting antibiotics. There is now a common strain of Salmonella that is resistant to at least five different antibiotics.
Antibiotics are used in agriculture on healthy animals to stimulate growth, usually as an additive in feed. They kill off bacteria that is naturally found in the animals' stomachs, this improves food absorption and hence growth. It is estimated that up to three quarters of antibiotics given to animals are applied regularly as growth promoters.
Antibiotics are also widely administered, not as a cure but to prevent the incidences of disease caused by crowded, factory-farm conditions. As much as 80 percent of antibiotics, when given in food to animals, go right through the animal and into the manure. So wherever the manure goes, there is the potential to have both antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bugs.
The Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF), advised the UK government on food safety in 1999, that " much of modern medicine depends upon the control of infection with antibiotics and if this were to become largely ineffective it would have calamitous consequences...giving antibiotics to animals results in the emergence of some resistant bacteria which infect humans".The World Health Organisation says that resistant strains of four bacteria which affect humans have now been transmitted to people from animals - salmonella, campylobacter, enterococci, and E. coli. and that the incidence of bacterial resistance has increased at an alarming pace in recent years. Once-curable diseases now have the potential to cause widespread sickness and death.