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Are Livestock Antibiotics Really Creating Resistant Bacteria?

Are Livestock Antibiotics Really Creating Resistant Bacteria?

Antibiotic Use in Cattle Can Actually Improve Food Safety

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There has been a lot of talk surrounding the use of antibiotics in cattle and how this may be creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This discussion has been for the most part, one sided. The argument has revolved around how antibiotics are overused in the industry, which is resulting in resistant bacteria.

What the debate hasn’t talked about is why antibiotics are used and how it can enhance food safety. It’s important to understand why antibiotics are used in cattle in the first place. Farmers and cattle ranchers use antibiotics to prevent illness or to treat sick animals.

Some people who aren’t involved with the cattle industry are probably wondering if antibiotics are safe for the animals or for human consumption of the meat. It’s important to know that all antibiotics go through rigorous testing before they are approved; and they are constantly being re-evaluated on an annual basis. Meat is also tested routinely to ensure that it’s meeting food safety standards.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has said that there is little to no evidence to suggest that restricting or eliminating the use of antimicrobials in animals that are used for human consumption would improve human health or reduce antibiotic resistance in humans.

Antimicrobial resistance is only a threat to humans if infected with resistant organisms that are difficult to treat. It’s important to note that this is an issue that’s really about transmitting human pathogens between humans.

According to the Institute of Food Technologists, a non-profit group comprised of scientists suggest that the best ways to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistant foodborne pathogens is to reduce pathogens in general. Interestingly enough, foodborne illness rates have decreased by 20 percent over the last 10 years despite population increases.

When examining antimicrobial resistance relating to the cattle industry it applies to pretty much anywhere, while the examples listed above are U.S. sources much of it applies to Canada too. In Canada, surveillance indicates that resistance levels in cattle and retail beef are extremely low and have not increased over time. The following is a link to a fairly recent report by the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS):