- (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee)
A report details that an alarming percentage of meat consumed in the United States contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which has some concerned over is potential impact on public health.
Data collected in 2011 by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System showed that more than half of the samples of ground turkey, pork chops and ground beef collected from various supermarkets contained a bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
The research was conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a joint program and highlighted the growing danger of the amount of meat contaminated with antibiotic-resistant forms of bacteria, such as salmonella, E. coli and campylobacter.
"The numbers are pretty striking," Dawn Undurraga, a nutritionist for Environmental Work Group, a health research and advocacy organization, told the Associated Press. "It really raises a question about the antibiotics we are using in raising animals for meat."
Animals raised on commercial farms for their meat are given antibiotics to increase growth and to reduce the cost of lost product in addition to preventing animal illness.
"We don't have a problem with treating animals with antibiotics when they are sick … but just feeding them antibiotics to make them get bigger faster at a lower cost poses a real problem for public health," Undurraga said.
Health officials in the United States and Europe stated that the overuse of antibiotics on animals that are healthy for the sole reason of increasing meat yield is putting public health at risk as well as contributing to antibiotic resistance in humans. However, some researchers are insisting that reducing antibiotics would add to the problem, not solve it.
"The No. 1 misunderstanding about antibiotics in animal agriculture is that it is not understood well enough that antibiotics are used to keep animals healthy, period," Randall Singer, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Minnesota, told The New York Times.
Singer added that the small sample size was a very small percentage of the total amount of meat consumed in the U.S. each year, and that clear links between animal antibiotic resistance and humans have not been established.
"We should not assume that when we find resistance to antibiotics in humans, it means it was caused by the use of antibiotics in animals," Singer added.
Agriculture Department statistics showed that close to 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animal agriculture. The FDA has recommended that antibiotics used for farming purposes be "limited to those uses that are considered necessary for assuring animal health."