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Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria: Big Ag Washes Its Hands of Any Responsibility

Andrew Gunther: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria: Big Ag Washes Its Hands of Any Responsibility
We can be pretty certain that in the coming days we will hear this message over and over again "So what if most of the meat on our supermarket shelves is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria? If you handle and cook your meat properly then a few bacteria shouldn't be a problem; and if you get sick with an untreatable disease then it's your own fault.'
The is the kind of contemptible retort we can expect from the intensive meat industry lobby and its many trolls in response to new research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which reveals high levels of life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria on raw supermarket meat. Yet the "cook it properly and everything will be ok" spin is just Big Ag's latest attempt to absolve itself of any responsibility for squandering one of the most important medical innovations of our time- and putting American lives at risk.
The EWG analyzed data from the government's National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), which was established to routinely test raw supermarket meat for antibiotic-resistant bacteria as a way of informing public health regulatory policy on the use of drugs in food-producing animals. Using the latest NARMS data, the EWG researchers detected antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a staggering 81 percent of ground turkey; 69 percent of pork chops; 55 percent of ground beef; and 39 percent of chicken breast, wings or thighs samples tested. The EWG's researchers also found "significant amounts" of antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella and Campylobacter, which together cause over 3.6 million cases of food poisoning a year. In addition, the researchers found that 53 percent of the raw chicken samples were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli, some of which can cause severe diarrhea, urinary tract infections and pneumonia -- and even death.
I've written before that scientists from around the world now emphatically link the misuse of antibiotics in intensive livestock farming as one of the key causes for the dramatic rise in life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacteria over recent years. Today, a staggering 80 percent of all the antibiotics produced in the U.S. are used on food-producing animals. In fact, we use more antibiotics per pound of meat produced than any other nation in the world.

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