As stated in the BBC news, drug resistance is an “existential threat” that could have a wide-ranging impact on Canadian health, economy, and society. The World Health Organization says it is a global threat that could undermine the ability to treat common infectious diseases.
Due to this growing concern the demand for food products raised without antibiotics is rising. The overuse of antibiotics in meat is the primary blame for the rise in resistant bacteria, which is now known as ‘superbugs.’ When ‘superbugs’ pass onto humans, they can result in severe illness.
What Happens if Antibiotics Stop Working?
Most of us have taken antibiotics at some point in our lives to treat an illness. Have you suffered from an ear infection, a skin condition, or strep throat?
Or were antibiotics necessary to treat a life-threatening condition, like pneumonia? Or a post-surgery infection? We think that when we catch an infectious illness or condition that the antibiotics our doctors give us will make us better. But what happens if they stop working?
Medical experts warn that if we do not stop the overuse of antibiotics in farming operations, they could stop working when we take them for illnesses. This could lead to dangerous consequences for our health. According to the CDC 2019 AR Threats Report, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.
Antibiotic Overuse in Factory Farms
Despite such warnings, many factory farms are feeding antibiotics to healthy livestock. Due to crowded and unsanitary conditions, along with other unhealthy practices, factory farms put animals’ health at risk. Instead of treating animals with antibiotics when they become unwell, many farming operations give antibiotics to all their livestock as a preventative measure.
This means that all the animals are ingesting antibiotics, not just the sick ones. Factory farms also found out that providing animals with regular antibiotics made them gain weight quicker, which translates to higher profits. Around 70% of all medically necessary antibiotics in the United States are purchased for livestock and poultry. Antibiotics are supposed to be given in specific doses to treat certain types of infections and conditions.
When they’re overused in farming operations, it increases the chances that bacteria resistant to the drugs will spread and grow. Dr. Jerome Leis, a medicine professor at the University of Toronto and the head of the Use Antibiotics Wisely campaign, says that an estimated 14 Canadians die each day due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Antibiotics are fine when used for preventing illness and infection. But inappropriate or excessive use is an issue. When antibiotics are overused, they become less effective for both animals and humans.
Should We Be Concerned?
While these statistics sound scary, the chances of you consuming antibiotics via animal foods are low.
In 2018 new rules were put into place to reduce the use of antibiotics in Canada. Livestock farmers now require a veterinary prescription to provide their animals with antibiotics to prevent over treating livestock that was not sick.
As well as this, vets and farmers must ensure that any animal products they produce are drug-free before they can be sold as food. Drug withdrawal periods are necessary before treated animals, eggs, or milk are sold or used as food. This leaves plenty of time for antibiotics to leave the animal’s system altogether.
But the antibiotics animals consume can allow strains that are drug-resistant to thrive and transfer to humans in other ways. Farmers can pick up the bacteria by interacting with the animals, which they do multiple times a day. Drug resistant bacteria can enter the ecosystem through farmland runoff. The bacteria can also be passed to people who touch or eat contaminated meat or other food products, which can then be spread to others.
Despite that illness from consuming antibiotics via animal foods is low, the debate on overused antibiotics and factory farms lingers on. While no evidence proves antibiotics in animal products harm people directly, most agree that overused antibiotics in food-producing animals are a significant concern.
Antibiotics in animal products can contribute to the progression and spread of drug-resistant bacteria called ‘Superbugs’. If somebody is infected by these drug-resistant bacteria, then it can become harder to find antibiotics to treat them successfully.
Resistance in bacteria is observed most where antibiotics are in wide use and where bacteria can readily be passed between people. A hospital or an intensive livestock operation are prime settings. This is the major reason that microbiologists question the ongoing use of antibiotics in the feed of food animals.
You can help reduce the risk when shopping by looking for labels that state organic or raised without antibiotics. Not only are all McLean deli meats truly preservative free, but the animals are also humanely raised without antibiotics. Learn more about McLean Meats and where to find a store near you.