In 2006 the European Union banned the use of antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals. The US has yet to follow suit and today 80% of the antibiotics used in the nation are being fed to animals in factory farms according to Food & Water Watch. That group is calling for a federal ban on the non-medicinal use of antibiotics in animal feed, which is believed to promote antibiotic resistant bacteria in humans.
Antibiotics are also used to prevent and control diseases that can breakout in the confined animal pens.
The organization has started a public awareness campaign to rally support for a federal ban against antibiotics in the agricultural industry. The organization has started a photo petition to show City Council public support for the ban.
“We are working to build local support all over the country for this ban, its called the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act in Senate and Senator Bob Casey is a key vote on this issue so we’re working to show him that the people of Pennsylvania and specifically right here in Pittsburgh are in support of this act and would like to see him take the lead on it,” says Kran-Annexstein.
According to Allegheny General Hospital staff physician Dr. Betsy Blazek-O’Neill, there has been concern for several years that when doctors prescribe unneeded antibiotics it increases the chance of antibiotic resistant bacteria developing.
“When I was in my training about 25 years ago there was basically one organism that we were kind of concerned about that was developing resistance and that was Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus,” says Blazek-O’Neill, “and now you know at last count there are at least 18 organisms that people have concerns about now that are multiple drug resistant and increasingly difficult to control when people are infected with them.”
The agricultural industry’s preventative method may be one of the reasons for the development of these bacteria.
According to Food & Water Watch oprganizer Margaret Kran-Annexstein, more than 2 million people a year contract antibiotic resistant infections with 23,000 deaths as a result.
According to Blazek-O’Neill, even individuals who purchase meat that was raised without antibiotics are at risk because the bacteria are still developing in these animals. Even if they aren’t being consumed directly the infections might still spread by other means.