It’s the biggest danger we’re all facing: a world without antibiotics.
And what seemed a distant threat not too long ago is now lurking right around the bend — due, in large part, to the haphazard way these drugs are given to farm animals.
So, the World Health Organization (WHO) stepped in right before Thanksgiving and issued a report outlining how that practice is sending us full steam ahead into an unimaginable superbug crisis.
It also issued new guidelines about how and when farm animals should be given antibiotics and warned that with 80 percent of these lifesaving drugs being pumped into mostly healthy cows, pigs, and chickens, changes must be made — and made now.
But no sooner was this report issued than the USDA piped up saying that these guidelines for farmers are neither “in alignment with U.S. policy” nor “supported by sound science.”
It’s enough to make you want to bang your head against the wall!
That absurd (and frightening) comment did, however, tell us one important thing — we’re on our own where this crisis is concerned.
And taking four simple steps that can protect you and your family from this threat is more important now than ever before.
The change that wasn’t
At the beginning of this year, things were supposed to change for the better.
That was when the FDA’s long-awaited “Guidance for Industry” #213 went into effect. Of course, with the word “guidance” (a.k.a. voluntary) in its name, that should have given us a hint of how it was going to turn out!
This “significant milestone,” according to the FDA, would put the U.S. ahead of the game when it comes to the use of excessive and unnecessary antibiotics in food animals.
Only it didn’t. Big surprise, right?
And this new WHO report revealed that not only didn’t GFI #213 turn things around, but the U.S. lags behind other nations when it comes to putting plans in place to make sure that medically important antibiotics aren’t used for disease prevention in healthy livestock (already a policy in Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands).
For an outrageous example of how many of our critically important drugs are being given to food animals, consider this: During one year, farms in the U.S. used over 10 million pounds of tetracycline, a widely used human antibiotic needed to treat conditions ranging from UTIs to pneumonia.
During that same timeframe, all of the antibiotics used by everyone in America amounted to a tad over 7 million pounds.
Tetracycline, of course, is just one of our vitally important drugs being dished out to livestock as if there will be no consequences.
And while GFI #213 was supposed to end the long-running practice of adding antibiotics to animal food and water to promote growth, there’s really nothing to stop farms (especially those super-large factory farms) from continuing on with business as usual.
“My big worry,” noted Keeve Nachman, a Johns Hopkins scientist who studies this issue, “is that we’re going to stop calling it growth promotion, and we’re going to start calling it disease prevention.”
Honestly, they can call it whatever they want, but the end result will be that by continuously feeding farm animals the antibiotics we depend on to save lives, more and more superbugs will be created.
We know that because we’ve already seen some frightening examples of it taking place right here in the U.S. And with the unbelievably lax attitude of the USDA, I can’t imagine things are going to improve.
All of this is why you need to start taking four critical precautions immediately:
#1 Make sure to only buy meat, poultry, and milk that’s certified organic. Organic farm animals aren’t given antibiotics unless they’re sick — at which time they’re also no longer considered to be organic. It’s also very likely that when you and your family eat conventional (not organic) meats and poultry, you may also be dining on a small dose of antibiotics!
#2 Antibiotics can no longer be used “just in case,” but only when really necessary, such as with Legionnaires’ disease that I told you about this morning (but only when you have a confirmed diagnosis). That may sound silly, since you have to get an Rx for one of these drugs, but doctors are still going hog wild in handing out antibiotic prescriptions for conditions they can’t help. If you don’t have a bacterial infection and are given an antibiotic, you need to ask your doctor why.
#3 Be especially careful when handling raw meat and poultry, even if it is organic. And when shopping, place all such items in their own plastic bag to prevent any juices from contaminating your other groceries.
#4 Don’t wash raw poultry in the sink. It’s not necessary and can spread dangerous bacteria around your kitchen without you even realizing it.
And last but certainly not least, that time-honored advice to wash your hands, especially after handling raw meat or poultry, has never been more important!
“WHO calls for restrictions on use of antibiotics in food animal production” Helen Branswell, November 7, 2017, STAT, statnews.com