Antibiotic overprescription in human adults and children has become a hot topic as cautionary tales from the medical community warn about the rise of drug-resistant infections, the negative effects of these drugs on the gut biome and a person’s longterm overall health. But humans aren’t the only ones absorbing too many of these drugs. Widespread, systemic use of various levels of antibiotics is also found in animal feed in the farming industry: 80% of antimicrobial agents sold in this country are actually used to help animals grow quickly and efficiently, and to prevent disease among large groups of animals where illness can spread quickly — more than 32.2 million pounds of antimicrobial drug active ingredients were used in 2012 alone! The problem: 60% of these same types of antibiotics are what doctors use to treat human patients and overexposure to them has resulted in antibiotic resistance. A new report published in Pediatrics takes the unusual step of advising food industry members to limit their use of antibiotics to treating and controlling infectious diseases in animals instead of as a routine and preventative measure.
Two million people get sick every year with antibiotic resistant infections, and doctors are struggling to find ways to treat them. Eating contaminated food is one way that people get these antibiotic resistant infections, so doctors are also urging patients to seek out animal food sources without antibiotics added. Other ways to contract these infections include direct contact with animals and exposure in the environment. Pediatricians warn that both docs and parents can also help fight antibiotic resistance by refraining from giving antibiotics to kids for colds and viral illnesses (which have not been proven to be helped by the use antibiotics). Children under the age of 5 and infants are particularly susceptible to food-borne diseases and this youthful population has the highest incidence for most types of infections. Our suggestion: reduce or ditch the meat consumption in general to reduce your family’s risk. National healthcare costs associated with antibiotic resistant infections is estimated between a staggering $21 billion and $34 billion each year.