Federal food regulators took a tentative step Monday toward banning a common use of penicillin and tetracycline in the water and feed given cattle, chickens and pigs in hopes of slowing the growing scourge of killer bacteria.
Some 100,000 people die every year in the United States as a result of infections caused by bacteria known as 'super bugs', which have developed a resistance to antibiotics due to their overuse in the livestock industry. Anyone familiar with factory farming and the fast food industry knows that these antibiotics are pumped into animal feed to make them grow larger and faster unnaturally, and that the livestock grow sickly and dependent on them.
The FDA has long sought to combat this process, and has been routinely thwarted by powerful agricultural interests in Washington. Now, the FDA is trying again: The agency just issued a policy paper stating that antibiotics should only be used under a veterinarian's supervision, and only when an animal is naturally sick. Could things finally change?
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Graph from HealthCare Without Harm: Antibiotic Resistance and Agricultural Overuse of Antibiotics. 2005.