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You’re Taking Second Hand Drugs
The antibiotics that the chicken was given before it became your Tikka Masala dinner could be helping drug resistant microbes thrive in your body. Pretty scary, huh?

Here’s how it works. Roughly 70% of all antibiotics administered in the US go to animals in the food supply. Some are used to treat active illnesses. Many are administered for “nonthereputic purposes.” For those of us who slept through Pharmacology 101, that means they were given to healthy livestock to make them grow faster and to prevent illnesses.

There’s mounting evidence that low levels of antibiotics given over long periods of time increase the presence of drug resistant bacteria in cows, chicken, and pigs. When humans come in contact with this livestock---either on a farm or on their fork---the drug resistant microbes or the antibiotics can be transferred. A recent CDC study showed that 20% of deaths due to drug resistant staph infections in the Netherlands could be traced back to animals.

There’s a huge fight brewing over how to solve this issue. The CDC, FDA, and USDA say that antibiotics in farming should be limited. In fact, legislation has been introduced to restrict nontherapeutic antibiotic usage. Farm groups and pharmaceutical companies say there isn’t a definitive connection between animal antibiotics and drug resistant infections, and changing current practices would significantly increase the cost of meat. Organic and sustainable farmers are raising their livestock with a smile on their face.

We should think about...
  • Will this issue drive more people to reduce the amount of meat in their diet? What does that mean for our business?
  • Will this add fuel to consumers’ already high level of concern about food safety? How will increased food safety scrutiny impact us?
  • Are consumers going to lash out at the historical lack of transparency about what goes on with the food supply? Are we ready to share even more information with our consumers?
Sources: Business Week 12/09; Press & Dakotan 1/10
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