Tag Archives: Antibiotic resistance

The case against antibiotics in poultry

More than 50 billion birds a year are produced in industrial poultry hatcheries worldwide.

On January 4th, 2012 the FDA quietly prohibited the “extralabel” or unapproved use of the common (yet strong) cephalosporin class of antibiotics in cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys to be effective April 5, 2012. The FDA says it is taking this action to preserve the effectiveness of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans, for it has been noted that as cephalosporin use increases in animal agriculture, human effectiveness diminishes.Cephalosporin antibiotics are a stronger cousin to penicillins. Doctors currently use cephalosporins to treat pneumonia, strep throat, tonsillitis, bronchitis, urinary tract infections and to prevent bacterial infection before, during, and after surgery.

Currently, unapproved use and abuse of antibiotics for food-intended animals is common practice. Sources say, some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are being fed or injected into cattle, pigs and poultry on industrial factory farms.2

One such unstudied and unapproved use of cephalosporins in food-intended animals, is their injection into poultry eggs. Although the FDA has approved the use of cephalosporins on animal farms for various specific veterinary purposes, such as curing an existing infection, the unapproved or “extra-label” use of cephalosporins, to suppress potential future infection, by injecting doses into chicken eggs just before the eggs hatch, has become widespread.

Every five weeks, a large poultry farm sees a delivery of newly hatched chicks (which have been mechanically injected with a third generation cephalosporin just prior to hatching). The chicks are then rapidly fattened with a feed laced with low-dose antibiotics, most likely amoxycillin and tetracycline, which are currently allowed in animal feed and will continue to be allowed in feed by the FDA.3 When the chicks reach three and a half pounds they are sent off for slaughter. Years ago, it took two months to fatten up a chicken, today they can eat their way to 3.5 pounds in just 33 days. Today’s low dose antibiotics are the reason the birds are bulking up so quickly. Upon exit of the chickens, the floor of the once crowded pen is cleaned for the first time in over five weeks, the month plus of excrement that the birds have been sleeping and sitting in from day two of their lives, is scraped away, and the process repeats itself. These are the types of conditions that set in motion the use of preventative antibiotics.

The FDA has taken a bold and much needed first step to reign in antibiotic use. FDA officials, scientists and physicians have been warning for years that antibiotics in agriculture pose a “serious public health threat” and action needs to be taken on the issue, but no concrete steps to limit the drugs had been taken until the January 4th announcement.

Another way to decrease antibiotic use on factory farms is to reduce demand. There appear to be three options: become a vegetarian, buy from a local, sustainable, humane farmer, or, for those who are capable, start your own small scale hatchery or poultry farm! The number of people dependent on big industry would decrease, and many a chicken and turkey would lead a more dignified life.

While we’ve all heard that over-prescription of antibiotics to people is one cause of resistance, another major cause is due to the unrestricted use of antibiotics on factory farms. And not just when animals are sick: healthy animals are fed antibiotics every day because it makes them grow bigger, faster. Marketplace tests 100 samples of chicken for antibiotic resistant strains of sakmonella. www.cbc.ca

The U.S. animal farming industry consumes over 30 million pounds of antibiotics per year.

Antibiotic use on U.S. livestock in 2010:  Cephalosporins- 54,207 pounds (24,588 kilograms),  Penicillins- 1.9 million pounds (870,948 kg),  Tetracyclines- 12.3 million pounds (5.6 million kg). www.mnn.com

The use of penicillin and tetracyclines – the fattening drugs the F.D.A. has chosen not to regulate – increased 43 percent and 21 percent from 2009 to 2010. In anticipation of the new law, the use of cephalosporins dropped 41 percent from 2009 to 2010.3

*1)  www.miller-mccune.com

*2)  newsfeedresearcher.com

*3)  bittman.blogs.nytimes.com


Leverstein-van Hall, MA et al. Dutch patients, retail chicken meat and poultry share the same ESBL genes, plasmids and strains. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 2011.

Pappas, G. An Animal Farm Called ESBL: Antimicrobial resistance as a zoonosis. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 2011.

Further Reading:

About cephalosporins: www.emedexpert.com

FDA Press Release: www.fda.gov


In Germany, although non-therapeutic use of antibiotics has been banned – conditions are poor: www.spiegel.de

Source: http://www.inspirationgreen.com/antibiotic-chicks.html


3 Dirty Chicken Facts Exposed

PHOTO: Many chickens sold in supermarkets are fed a steady diet of human drugs.Many chickens sold in supermarkets are fed a steady diet of human drugs.

Think the pink slime scandal is gross? There’s even more unappetizing news, this time from the poultry department. By testing feathers, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that “healthy chicken” sold in your supermarket could have very well been raised on a steady diet of prescription, over-the-counter, and even banned drugs.

The full implication of people eating chicken containing these drugs isn’t even known, although previous studies have shown carcinogenic arsenic fed to chickens—something approved for use in nonorganic chicken farming—does wind up in the meat.

In the study, researchers tested feather meal, a by-product of chicken farming often used as fertilizer, because feathers accumulate important clues as to which drugs and chemicals chickens are exposed to during their short—usually about eight-week—lives.

The contaminated chicken report is the latest in a string of findings suggesting the industrial food system that supplies most supermarkets routinely engages in practices that could put consumers at risk.

And this, the study’s coauthor says, is just the tip of the iceberg.

“There are a wide spectrum of public health, social justice, and environmental concerns that stem from the way we raise animals for food,” explains researcher Keeve Nachman, PhD, assistant scientist and director of the Farming for the Future program at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, part of the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “These concerns range from the generation and transport of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics that are critical to human medicine, to the disproportionate concentration of animal-production sites and their associated air and water pollution in low-income communities of color, to the overwhelming energy and water inputs required to grow and transport feed for food animals.”

Dirty Chicken Facts Exposed

News of these dangers is going mainstream, too. In a recent New York Times column, Nicholas Kristof outlined the dangers of the industrial poultry system, saying, “I used to be skeptical of organic, but the more reporting I do on our food supply, the more I want my own family eating organic—just to be safe.”

Here’s what industry is feeding your chickens, according to feather testing:

Antidepressants, Painkillers, Allergy Meds

Sure, the conditions in factory farms are depressing. But researchers were surprised to find active ingredients of human antidepressant drugs like Prozac in the chicken feather product tested. The mood-stabilizing drug was detected in U.S.-sold chicken imported from China, and is apparently used to reduce anxiety in chickens, since stress can slow growth and lead to tougher meat, according to Kristof’s report.


Nachman’s team also detected caffeine in about half of the chicken feather samples. Caffeine is used to keep the chickens awake so they eat more and grow faster.

Banned Antibiotics

Surprise! Feather tests suggest large-scale poultry producers are using banned antibiotics in poultry production. “We were especially surprised to find residues of a number of over-the-counter drugs, including the active ingredients of Tylenol, Benadryl, and Prozac, but what was even more disturbing was finding residues of fluoroquinolone antibiotics, since these drugs have been banned from poultry production since 2005,” Nachman says.

This class of antibiotics includes Cipro, a high-powered drug often used in humans when other antibiotics don’t work. It was banned in the poultry industry about seven years ago because researchers were detecting that its use in farming was leading to antibiotic-resistant superbug strains that could potentially kill humans. To date, superbugs kill about 17,000 people in the U.S. a year.

Despite all this, the FDA has made it clear that it plans to not formally ban antibiotic use in food animal products, but rather ask farmers to voluntarily limit use.

“Our research suggests that drugs that are illegal in poultry production may still be in use,” Nachman says. “Given this, I have little confidence that a voluntary approach will have any impact on the food animal industry’s abuse of antibiotics.”

Seek Out Undrugged Meat

To find more humanely and naturally raised chicken, look for local grass-fed poultry farmers who don’t use routine antibiotics or arsenic in feed. (LocalHarvest.org is a good resource.) If you’re shopping in the supermarket, opt for organic—standards for organic include bans on the use of antibiotics, arsenic, and many other unappetizing chicken-farming practices.

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/dirty-chicken-facts-exposed/story?id=16724335&page=2#.UW_1D34tDS0