October 21, 2014

Study Finds Banned Antibiotics in Chicken Feather Meal

A study conducted by Arizona State University and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) found banned antibiotics in chicken feather meal, a byproduct made of ground poultry feathers that is added to cattle, chicken, pig, and fish feed.

The drugs that were found included Prozac, Benadryl, and fluoroquinolones, a class of drugs that were banned for use in poultry in 2005 because Campylobacter were becoming resistant to those drugs. Fluoroquinolones are important because they are very effective when used to fight infections caused by bacteria that have developed resistance to other antibiotics.

The study authors state that antibiotics are “introduced into the feed and water of industrially raised poultry, primarily to make them grow faster, rather than to treat disease.” All 12 samples tested had between 2 and 10 antibiotic residues.

The National Chicken Council responded to the study with a statement: “as the study’s authors pointed out, this study looked only at feathers, not meat. If consumers were to take away one message from the findings, it should be from the researchers themselves: ‘We haven’t found anything that is an immediate health concern.'”

But Tyler Smith, Senior Research and Policy Assistant at CLF, told Food Poisoning Bulletin that “if the poultry industry has continued to use fluoroquinolones illegally, as the study suggests, this would be of utmost concern to public health. The illegal use of antibiotics in food animal product is an immediate health concern whether or not the drugs are in meat.”

Smith continued, “This study shows why voluntary guidance is not going to solve the problem. The industry may still be using [these drugs] in violation of the law. If they are not going to follow the law, why would they follow voluntary guidance? That’s the policy implication coming out of this study.”

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