ANTIBIOTIC OVERUSE IS UNDERMINING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF ANIBIOTICS—AND IS KILLING LOTS OF AMERICANS IN THE PROCESS
IT WILL KILL A WHOLE LOT MORE IN THE FUTURE
We huff and puff and spend over a trillion dollars a year on National Defense—and yet we tolerate death from within on an industrial basis with equanimity. After all, we have known for years that overuse of antibiotics creates resistance—yet we tolerate massive overuse use of antibiotics by Big Agriculture throughout the U.S. meat industry. Such lethal practices are required as a preventative measure to counteract disease resulting from the appalling conditions in which our feed animals are kept. Eighty percent of U.S. antibiotic consumption is used in this way. In effect, the vast majority of American meat is life threatening.
The following are brief extracts from a piece written by the estimable Tom Philpott of Mother Jones magazine in September 2013.
Finally, there's Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which racks up 80,461 "severe" cases per year and kills a mind-numbing 11,285 people annually. The CDC report doesn't link MRSA to livestock production, but it does note that the number of cases of MRSA caught during hospital stays has plunged in recent years, while "rates of MRSA infections have increased rapidly among the general population (people who have not recently received care in a healthcare setting)."
Why are so many people coming down with MRSA who have not had recent contact with hospitals? Increasing evidence points to factory-scale hog facilities as a source. In a recent study, a team of researchers led by University of Iowa's Tara Smith found MRSA in 8.5 percent of pigs on conventional farms and no pigs on antibiotic-free farms. Meanwhile, a study just released by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who live near hog farms or places where hog manure is applied as fertilizer have a much greater risk of contracting MRSA. Former Mother Jones writer Sarah Zhang summed up the study like this for Nature:
In short, the meat industry's protestations aside, livestock production is emerging as a vital engine for the rising threat of antibiotic resistance. Perhaps the scariest chart in the whole report is this one—showing that once we generate pathogens that can withstand all the antibiotics currently on the market, there are very few new antibiotics on the horizon that can fill the breach—the pharma industry just isn't investing in R&D for new ones.
The rest of the developed world has been acutely aware of this problem for decades—and has taken appropriate action. In contract, the U.S. continues to put corporate profitability ahead of American lives. Industrial Food is bringing us an Industrial Rate of Death as a consequence.
Think of that next time you contemplate tucking into a steak, enjoying a pork chop, or dieting with a ‘healthy’ chicken salad.