April 22, 2018

Reuters Confirms Antibiotic Misuse on Factory Poultry Farms

Food & Water Watch, which has been working against the sub therapeutic use of antibiotics on factory farms, states that Reuters released a report stating that those uses are continuing. Industry data is usually kept private, even from the FDA. Use of antibiotics in this way is linked to the explosive growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Chickens in CagesThe report, titled Farmaceuticals, showed that the nation’s largest poultry farmers feed chickens antibiotics routinely. And some of those antibiotics are medically important to human beings. Five major companies – Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, George’s, and Koch Foods were the focus of the investigation.

More than 300 documents by poultry producers over the last two years were reviewed. These “feed tickets” come from the mills that make chicken feed according to company specs. The names and amounts of “active drug ingredients” are listed. The FDA and USDA do not monitor how these antibiotics are administered on the farm. While these practices are legal, food safety and animal welfare advocates say that they are dangerous and are contributing to the rise of bacteria that do not respond to medication.

The poultry industry does not agree with this assessment, even though the recent Foster Farms chicken Salmonella outbreak was from seven drug-resistant strains of Salmonella Heidelberg. That outbreak, which stretched over months, sickened at least 621 people in the United States. And the number of people hospitalized in that outbreak was three times the average, because the bacterial infections were difficult to treat.

About 10% of the feed tickets list drugs that are medically important. George’s Inc, in Arkansas, delivered feed with two antibiotics critical to human health to make chickens gain weight faster. Tyson delivered feed containing bacitracin for growth promotion and disease prevention, in spite of the fact that the company claims they don’t use that drug. And Koch Foods claims not to use important antibiotics, but did use virginiamycin, which is important in human medicine, according to the report.

Food & Water Watch states that these drugs are not improving farm performance. Some in the poultry industry say that there is “similar performance” among chickens raised with antibiotics and those raised without. Food & Water Watch wants to see legislation to regulate antibiotic use in agriculture.

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