Antibiotics: Are they overused and in my food? What can I do?

by Charise Rohm Nulsen

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably felt extreme gratitude for the existence of antibiotics at some point in your life. Each time that I’ve easily recovered from strep throat throughout my life thanks to antibiotics, I’ve thought of my mom’s oldest sister who died from strep throat as a young child – only weeks before penicillin was released to the public.

Although I greatly appreciate antibiotics because of this, I am also downright frightened by the overuse of antibiotics in our society, particularly within our food supply.

Why would antibiotics have anything to do with our food supply?
Food animals on industrial farms are routinely fed antibiotics in their food and water to promote growth and to compensate for the effects of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

How does this affect you?
Many of the antibiotics your doctor would prescribe you like penicillin or tetracyclines are the exact same antibiotics given to the food animals on the farms. This means that bacteria resistant to antibiotics used in animals will also be resistant to antibiotics used in humans. When you eat food that comes from animals fed these antibiotics, you are unknowingly and unwillingly helping bacteria to create strains that are resistant to our antibiotics. This creates “superbugs” and antibiotics that can no longer help us.

According to SaveAntibiotics.org:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testified before Congress last year that there was a definitive link between the routine, non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics on industrial farms and the crisis of antibiotic resistance in humans

Imagine a world in which we can’t count on antibiotics!
- Without effective antibiotics, surgeries and transplants could become impossible.

- Children, the elderly, and chronically ill people will be severely at risk.

- Previously treatable illnesses like pneumonia may become untreatable.

This is not the kind of world we want our children to grow up in.

What can we do?
1. Click on this link to send a letter to your representatives asking them to cosponsor the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2011 which would withdraw the routine use of seven classes of antibiotics vitally important to human health from food animal production unless animals or herds are sick with disease or unless drug companies can prove that their use does not harm human health.

2. Join the Moms for Antibiotic Awareness campaign.

3. Share this information with others so we can all be informed!

To learn more about the overuse of antibiotics, please visit these resources:
- Healthy Child Healthy World
- New study adds to concerns about animal-to-human resistance to antibiotics, April 25, 2011, Los Angeles Times
- Video: CBS Evening News Reports on Antibiotic Use in Food Animal Production

If you have suggestions on how to help prevent the overuse of antibiotics, or if you would like to share other helpful resources on this topic, please include them in your comments below. Thank you!

baby looking at a cow

Let's keep our food supply and our babies safe!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maria May 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm

I won’t get too long winded but we are cattle rancher who do NOT feed anything to our cows except for grass and water. I know that our current times are tough but, while it may be a bit more costly, I strongly recommend getting your meat from someone you know. Knowing your food source is a great way of ensuring that your family is ingesting good, quality food without added chemicals that are used when animals are being mass produced to supply a grocery store or the like.
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2 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama May 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Thank you so much, Maria! This is such important and excellent advice!

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3 Dave Higgs-Vis@Folkabout Baby May 24, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Without antibiotics, we’re faced with the choice between astronomically expensive meat or vegetarianism.

I don’t say this in defense of antibiotics, but more to make people aware of the stakes here. Factory farms are impossible without antibiotics, and so the meat idustry would have to massively reformed to survive without them.

It’s not going to happen, though, not with the power that the pharmaceutical lobby wields.

Damn, I sound like such a downer…
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4 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama May 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I appreciate your comment, Dave, but those actually aren’t the only options. As Maria said in the first comment to this post, people can get to know their local farmers and buy meat and dairy from the ones they know do not use antibiotics.

Also, if you check out the link in my post that says “Click on this link to send a letter to your representatives asking them to cosponsor the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2011 which would withdraw the routine use of seven classes of antibiotics vitally important to human health from food animal production unless animals or herds are sick with disease or unless drug companies can prove that their use does not harm human health“. I think this would be amazing legislation because it would keep the big farms going but it would not hurt us by building our resistance to the antibiotics that we most often receive. You should sign the petition :-)

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5 Dave Higgs-Vis@Folkabout Baby May 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm

You’re totally right about local farmers being an option. I should hit up the local farmers’ markets and compare prices.

As for the petition, I don’t live in the States, so I can’t sign it :(.

Sorry for the negativity in my earlier post. I struggled a lot with this issue during a period of severe depression a few years ago, and I carry around a lot of that negative energy still.
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6 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama May 25, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Oh Dave, please don’t apologize! You have nothing at all to apologize for. I was just trying to spread some hope about what can appear to be a dismal situation. From reading your blog, I sense nothing but positive energy – I love how you love your family and want to create a better world! <3

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7 smallkucing May 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm

It didnt occurred to me that the food we consumed also have antibiotics. Hmmm….
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8 Roechelle May 24, 2011 at 11:49 pm

I am your newest fan, I am enjoying the rich content on your blog:) you can follow me back if you wish at http://hugatreewithme2.blogspot.com
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9 Kristl Story May 25, 2011 at 8:54 am

One of many, many issues with our food supply! Thanks for letting us know how to take action!
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10 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama May 25, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Your welcome!

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11 The Damsel in Dis Dress May 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

This scares me so much, both ways! I hate to think of the scary high prices we’d face without factory farms, but saving the effectiveness of antibiotics is a life-and-death situation. We have to do it!
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12 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama May 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm

It is scary! Luckily, the legislation that might be passed would be a happy medium:

“PAMTA would withdraw the routine use of seven classes of antibiotics vitally important to human health from food animal production unless animals or herds are sick with disease or unless drug companies can prove that their use does not harm human health.”

You can click on the link in my post to support the legislation online if you would like!

Thanks so much for commenting!

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13 Michelle Steiner@GardeningCanningCrafting May 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I agree with Maria. Make sure you know where your meats and veggies are coming from, buy from a local producer. We grow our own veggies and can for the winter. We get our meats from a local producers who don’t overload their livestock with antibiotics and other drugs. There is a another advantage to this, the food tastes sooo much better!
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14 Lana @ Dentist West Hollywood July 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this information – I plan to pass it along because more people need to be aware of what is happening and what COULD happen as a result. Besides the three steps you suggest here, has anyone come up with anything else we can do to help? I want to do whatever I can and I have suggested my friends do the same.

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15 Lizzy @ Testosterone Therapy July 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I’m not a mom to anyone other than my precious bulldog Rufus, but can I still join the campaign? I’d love to help.

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16 Bob Lipply@pasco county realtor September 17, 2011 at 2:44 am

This is frightening. I have watched a video about milk powders and it says it isn’t safe to drink milk from animals because of the same reason. I didn’t believe it as I thought the video was made only to scare people. Thanks for the info!

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