Antibiotics in Your Food: What's Causing the Rise in Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Our Food Supply and Why You Should Buy Antibiotic-Free Food

By Barry Estabrook, "Growing Resistance," May/June 2013

As the use of antibiotics in farming and raising livestock has increased, new antibiotic resistant bacteria, or "superbugs" are emerging. Here's what you need to know about antibiotics in your food and eating antibiotic-free food.

"To suggest that there is only "one real solution" is a rather limited point of view. Perhaps that solution is the only one for you, but that does not make it ipso facto for everyone. I am a omnivore, eat meat sparingly and when I do I...

A Demand for Drug-Free
For Willis, though, “it was a customer issue. My biggest customers pushed for the animals to be free from antibiotics, so I banned drugs.” Companies that now refuse to sell meat produced with antibiotics include Whole Foods Market and Chipotle Mexican Grill, and the list is growing. Hyatt Hotels now offers antibiotic-free options at all its restaurants. At a time when sales of most meat and poultry products are flat, antibiotic-free-meat sales are climbing at a rate of 10 to 15 percent annually and sales from antibiotic-free pork alone now approach $500 million a year, according to Kevin Kimle, a faculty member in the economics department at Iowa State University.

Everly Macario is convinced that conscientious shoppers are the key to boosting those numbers. “If we buy only antibiotic-free meat, then demand for conventional meat will drop and more farmers will stop drugging their animals. It’s something every shopper can do.” She does not stop at shopping: Macario helped found the MRSA Research Center at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She also became the leader of Supermoms Against Superbugs, which met with food-policy legislators in Washington, D.C., in 2012 to discuss ways to keep antibiotics viable.

But to date, there has been no solid progress. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, a Democrat from upstate New York and a microbiologist by training, has repeatedly tried to legislate limits on the use of the drugs in animals, without success. In an email, Slaughter said, “With the threat of antibiotic resistance higher than ever, I will once again introduce the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act at the start of the 113th Congress. As the science continues to make clear, there is no more time for delay.”

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