Livestock raised for food in the US are dosed with five times as much antibiotic medicine as farm animals in other countries, a study revealed.
The difference in rates of dosage rises to at least nine times as much in the case of cattle raised for beef, and may be as high as 16 times the rate of dosage per cow.
There is currently a ban on imports of American beef throughout Europe, owing mainly to the free use of growth hormones in the US.
Higher use of antibiotics, particularly those that are critical for human health – the medicines “of last resort,” which the World Health Organization wants banned from use in animals – is associated with rising resistance to the drugs and the rapid evolution of “superbugs” that can kill or cause serious illness.
Ted McKinney, US under-secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, told an audience of British farmers last month he was “sick and tired” of hearing British concerns about chlorinated chicken and US food standards, further indicating that the Trump administration is turning a deaf ear to concerns about the quality of the US food supply.
Antibiotic resistance can spread rapidly among herds and flocks, but can also be spread through eating affected food products, according to the World Health Organization.
Antibiotic use in the US is three times higher in chickens than it is in the UK, double that for pigs, and five times higher for turkeys, according to research by the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, which based its report on new data that has recently become available through industry groups and government.
Suzi Shingler, at the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, said: “US cattle farmers are massively overusing antibiotics. Trade negotiators who may be tempted to lift the ban on US beef should not only be considering the impact of growth hormones, but also of antibiotic resistance due to rampant antibiotic use.”
Nearly three quarters of the total use of antibiotics worldwide is thought to be on animals rather than humans, which raises serious questions over intensive farming and the potential effects on antibiotic resistance, which can easily be spread to people. Once resistance takes hold and drugs become ineffective, treating even common diseases becomes problematic.
Many doctors, researchers and public health officials have warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the most severe threats facing humanity, and if strong action is not taken urgently that even routine operations may become too dangerous.
Unfortunately, the current trend in America is to bolster corporate profits, without serious consideration of the public healthy effects.