New study shows factory farms breed mutated superbugs with antibiotic feed

The EU banned four different antibiotics in animal feed as far back as 1998, citing the same concerns raised by this Boston University study. In 2006, the EU went one step further and banned the use of all antibiotics for the purposes of farm animal growth promotion.

Think it won't make much difference to do the same here? Last year, a University of Iowa study found a resistant strain of methicilin resistant staph (MSRA) in 70 percent of the hogs of some antibiotic-using farms in Iowa and Illinois. 64 percent of the workers on those farms had contracted the same infection. At non-antibiotic farms, they found no MSRA.

That seems a hefty price to pay for a few extra pounds of meat a few days faster.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is spearheading a campaign to pass the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA H.R. 1549/S. 619), which would withdraw the use of seven classes of antibiotics vitally important to human health from food animal production unless animals or herds are sick with disease or unless drug companies can demonstrate that their routine use does not harm human health. It's a start. Call your representative today to get the ball rolling.

As if there weren't enough reasons to avoid factory-farmed meat, a new Boston University study shows that the low levels of antibiotics used in pig and chicken farms to stimulate growth in the animals also tends to stimulate mutation in bacteria. Antibiotics largely kill bacteria by encouraging the production of free radicals in the cells. In low doses, those free radicals can greatly increase the chance of mutation in the bacteria, sometimes resulting in bugs that are resistant to a wide range of typical antibiotics. Just to give you an idea how prevalent the use of farm antibiotics is, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that over 70 percent of all antibiotics used in this country are fed to farm animals.

According to Jim Collins, one of the paper's authors (as quoted on "The low-level antibiotics are boosting up the mutation rate and not killing off the bacteria. As result, you have created a zoo of mutants."

Of course, we don't need to use antibiotics in this way, even in factory farming.

Scroll to read more Food News articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.