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According to a new report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday, antibiotic resistance in factory meat production contributes to nearly 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Large-scale farming has also led to other unsavory consequences, including mad cow disease, animal abuse, and waste runoff, but perhaps most serious, many strains of bacteria have been transformed into superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics because of their  overuse in the meat industry.

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According to the CDC, two million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year. While it has been known for a long time that broad-spectrum antibiotics are overused in human medical care, the CDC is now drawing attention to their use in the meat industry.

As The Guardian reports, 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are distributed in animal water and feed. Most of these applications are unregulated, and it is extremely difficult to track how much is being used and where. More importantly, little is known about how much of the antibiotics remain in meat, and there is currently no law that mandates testing. Low doses have the potential to create resistant bacteria in the human gut as well as waterways and habitats close to farms. Killing off too many bacteria in the body has been linked to higher rates of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

“The use of antibiotics for growth is not necessary, and the practice should be phased out,” the CDC writes in their report.

The FDA has proposed that the pharmaceutical companies re-list their antibiotics solely for the purpose of disease prevention instead of labeling them as growth promoters. Some experts suggest an outright ban on the drugs, which should only be allowed with a prescription from a veterinarian. So far, several European countries have outlawed the widespread use of antibiotics, but the U.S. has yet to adopt such legislation.

+ Centers for Disease Control

Via the Guardian

Images via the CDC