May 5, 2011

Nationwide Poll: 80% of America’s Moms are Concerned About Antibiotic Use in Industrial Food Animal Production

Ralph Loglisci

Ralph Loglisci

Food and Health Policy Writer

When moms talk you can bet lawmakers listen, not to mention food retailers. That is exactly what the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming is counting on following the release of a nationwide poll of 804 American moms, which found that 80 percent are concerned that food animals produced on industrial farms are being given large amounts of antibiotics. Each of these moms is a  registered voter and has kids aged 16 or younger.  Not only were most of the moms polled concerned about antibiotic use, more than three-quarters said they would support federal regulations to limit its use in food animals.

No doubt this news has the animal agriculture industry concerned. Despite the warnings from scientists and public health experts of the risks of the low-dose use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry,  food animal producers have for years fought proposed federal regulations claiming there is little proof the practice poses a risk to humans. Top leaders of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration disagree with animal producers. Former FDA Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein testified in front of Congress stating the links are undeniable and in a letter to the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) the director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, confirmed that the CDC, “feels there is strong scientific evidence of a link between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans.”

More and more research continues to pour in, almost on a daily basis, linking antibiotic-use in intensive food animal production facilities to the growing threat of antibiotic resistant infections in people. Earlier this month, a Pew funded nationwide study of grocery store meats revealed nearly 50 percent of the meat and poultry we buy carries antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and that DNA tests indicate the animals themselves were the primary sources.

The amount of antibiotics used in animal agriculture is astounding. Using 2009 data released late last year by the FDA, the CLF estimated that of the antibiotics available for people and animals in the U.S., food animal producers purchase nearly 80 percent. The majority of these antibiotics were administered to food animals routinely in low-doses to promote growth and prevent disease stemming from overcrowded unsanitary conditions.

In addition to releasing results from the moms poll today, the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming announced the launch of a new grassroots movement entitled, “Moms for Antibiotic Awareness.” One of the first mothers to join the movement, Dr. Everly Macario, whose one-and-a-half-year-old son died from a bacterial infection that was resistant to antibiotics seven years ago, was quoted in a Pew news release as saying, “From the halls of Congress to the aisles of my local supermarket, I am going to let my voice be heard.”

Earlier this year, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) reintroduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which would limit the use of antibiotics deemed important in human medicine in food animals. The bill has yet to reach the house floor for a vote.

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