What Are They, and Why Do They Matter?
In the past several years in several of these United States, legislation has been and is being considered that would limit or ban the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in animal agriculture.
The Use of Antibiotics in Animals
It is estimated that of all the antibiotics used in the United States, 80% are given to agricultural animals. Antibiotics are used, unnecessarily some feel, in these animals to promote growth or to prevent diseases that result from animal overcrowding and unhygienic living conditions.
Concern about the growing level of drug-resistant bacteria has led to the banning and reduction of such sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals in many countries in the European Union and Canada. However, in the United States, this practice remains legal, but curtailed by the US Department of Agriculture in a ruling that took effect on January 1, 2017.
Antibiotic resistance is a global health concern that results in strains of bacteria that do not respond to standard antibiotic treatment and can result in severe life-threatening illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the use of low doses of non-therapeutic antibiotics in animal agriculture “contributes to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food-producing animals.
These resistant bacteria can contaminate the foods that come from those animals, and persons who consume these foods can develop antibiotic-resistant infections.” Antibiotic resistant bacteria can also be transmitted through the environment and water supply. The CDC reports that each year 2 million people are infected and 23,000 people will die from antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Hormones in Beef
Hormones in beef, of course, are used in the United States to bolster growth in food producing cattle. The resistance to the practice is centered around scientists in the EU who have said that the use of six hormones (3 natural and 3 artificial) in beef production poses a potential risk to human health
They have argued that even though a particular hormone may exists naturally in cattle, that growth hormones cause the amount of naturally occurring hormones to increase by 7 – 20 times, endangering the health of the animal, infecting the food it produces and ultimately putting human health at risk.
The European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health (SCVPH), the reporting committee, also questioned whether hormone residues in the meat of growth enhanced animals can disrupt human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate and colon cancers.
Until there is a full governmental ban on these practices, we can all help by supporting farming practices that are sustainable, support a healthy environment, and that do not harm our communities. This includes purchasing meats from a producer that has raised beef without the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics and growth hormones.