The government has rolled over once again for Big Meat and we may be in more danger from antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
So far, 2012 is bringing bad news for people who don't want "free antibiotics" in their food.
Antibiotics are routinely given to livestock on factory farms to make them gain weight with less feed and keep them from getting sick in confinement conditions. But the daily dosing, at the same time it lowers feed needs, lowers drug effectiveness and produces antibiotic resistant bacteria or super bugs that can be deadly to people.
This month, researchers found 230 out of 395 pork cuts bought in US stores were contaminated with a super bug called MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Worse--there were "no statistically significant differences" between "conventionally raised swine and swine raised without antibiotics," reported the researchers.
Why would meat labeled "raised without antibiotics" be as full of super bugs as conventional and factory farmed meat? It can be contaminated with MRSA at the farm, by slaughterhouse workers who carry MRSA or by other meat, if processing equipment is not "cleaned out between runs of certified organic and non-certified organic meats," say the researchers. A 2009 study of swine workers in Iowa and Illinois found that almost half carried MRSA.
And last month, the FDA scrapped its three-decade-long effort to regulate the use of the popular human antibiotics penicillin and tetracycline in livestock. While the FDA says in the announcement that it "remains concerned about the issue of antimicrobial resistance," it also says "contested, formal withdrawal proceedings" consume too much of its time and money. For example, withdrawing nitrofurans from livestock use took 20 years, DES (diethylstilbestrol) took seven years and enrofloxacin took five years and cost $3.3 million, says the agency. Hey, we're just the government that makes the laws and enforces them. They're Big Meat!