Threats from Nervous Hog Farmers

Mark Bittman, whose regular food systems columns in the New York Times are an excellent source of thoughtful commentary on the ills of industrialized agriculture, commented last month on the odd-couple arrangement brokered by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP). It’s worth noting that on the same day that the UEP and HSUS announced their partnership, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) issued a nervous response rife with scare tactics.

Here is an excerpt from their July 7 statement: “NPPC is gravely concerned that such a one-size-fits-all approach will take away producers’ freedom to operate in a way that’s best for their animals, make it difficult to respond to consumer demands, raise retail meat prices and take away consumer choice, devastate niche producers and, at a time of constrained budgets for agriculture, redirect valuable resources from enhancing food safety and maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture to regulating on-farm production practices for reasons other than public health and welfare.” Read More >

New FDA Numbers Reveal Food Animals Consume Lion’s Share of Antibiotics

Antibiotics, one of the world’s greatest medical discoveries, are slowly losing their effectiveness in fighting bacterial infections and the massive use of the drugs in food animals may be the biggest culprit. The growing threat of antibiotic resistance is largely due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both people and animals, which leads to an increase in “super-bacteria”. However, people use a much smaller portion of antibiotics sold in this country compared to the amount set aside for food animals. In fact, according to new data just released by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), of the antibiotics sold in 2009 for both people and food animals almost 80% were reserved for livestock and poultry. A huge portion of those antibiotics were never intended to fight bacterial infections, rather producers most likely administered them in continuous low-dosages through feed or water to increase the speed at which their animals grew. And that has many public health experts and scientists troubled.

For years scientists concerned about the threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria in food animal production have been trying to figure out just how much antibiotics producers are using each year.  The best they could do was come up with rough estimates. That is because the data was never publicly available, until now. Read More >

CBS Airs First Segment, “Animal Antibiotic Overuse Hurting Humans?”


Watch CBS News Videos OnlineIn the first installment of a two-part series, CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric investigates the connection between the use of antibiotics in factory farms and the incidence of MRSA in humans. Couric talks to a worker at an Arkansas poultry processing facility who developed MRSA; discusses the use overuse of antibiotics on the farm with Shelley Hearne, managing director of the Pew Health Group at The Pew Charitable Trusts; and tells viewers about a University of Iowa study, which found a new strain of MRSA — in nearly three-quarters of hogs (70%), and nearly two-thirds of the workers (64%) — on several farms in Iowa and Western Illinois. All of them use antibiotics, routinely. On antibiotic-free farms no MRSA was found. Couric also talks with Iowa hog farmer Dave Kronlage who admits he uses antibiotics to accelerate growth and fend off disease. The CBS web site contains the expected statements from the National Pork Producers Council, the National Pork Board, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Tomorrow night CBS Evening News will feature part two of the series, which focuses on Denmark’s ban on antibiotic use.