Consumer’s Union (an arm of Consumer Reports) says that up to 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are administered not to humans, but are given to animals as growth promotants and to prevent disease. But many including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Consumer’s Union now say the overuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry has now led to “superbugs” with greater antibiotic resistance, increasing the risk of untreatable diseases in humans
But how did this come to be?
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) produced the infographic below outlining the history of antibiotic use in animal feed. Turns out the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved of antibiotics back in the 1950s, and the first report linking antibiotic resistance and antibiotic use in livestock followed soon after, in the 1960s. By the early 70s many European countries banned the use of certain strains of the drug for growth promotion in animals, while the FDA refused to do so in the U.S.
Today the NRDC and other groups are in a legal battle with the FDA over the continued use of antibiotics in agriculture. The FDA has asked for voluntary, non-binding principals for antibiotic use to be adopted by the livestock industry.
Which means that if you are going to successfully avoid antibiotics on your meat, you will have to buy from those who do not use them when raising animals. Buying antibiotic-free meats from small scale producers might be more expensive (although Consumer Reports found that is not always the case). But by buying less, your family can gain more peace of mind.
Click on the infographic below to learn more about the history of antibiotics in our food.