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Antibiotics In Food Production. Time To Look For Alternatives?

The use of antibiotics brought a lot of advantages in the sphere of food production. However, it caused a big problem for today's society-antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Are there any alternatives for antibiotics to prevent this problem? The answer is below.

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How did antibiotics made their way to food production?

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Since 1950s, once the scientists found out that adding small dosages of antibiotics to livestock feed makes the growers’ and producers’ lives easier, the use of drugs in meat production skyrocketed.

Pros and cons?

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Although the use of antibiotics brought a lot of benefits, it caused one of the biggest problems nowadays—antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Its emergence was reported in the 1950’s, after the first antibiotics were used for livestock.

The numbers

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There is a difference in numbers of use of antibiotics between Europe and the United States. Fifty percent of antibiotics produced in Europe are for livestock. However, compared to Europe, approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are fed to farm animals.

Why so much?

Farms Not Factories / Via farmsnotfactories.org

These huge numbers of antibiotics depict the need of using an approach to prevent the spread of infections and illnesses, which most of the time are caused by unbearable conditions that the animals endure on farms. Most of the time animals live in cramped spaces where it is difficult to turn around or lie down. Chickens, for instance, can be found living on top of each other and never see sunlight during their lives. They are made to grow so big that their legs are broken from their own weight. Cattle and pigs live in their own waste, which sometimes reaches the height of the knees, and creates a convenient environment for the bacteria to spread.

Who to blame?

It is believed that farmers and growers are to be blamed for the spread of the bacteria, but the problem is more global. Usually, antibiotics are not fully digested and 75% enters the environment through animal waste.

European ban

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Starting in 1986, Sweden, Denmark, and other European countries started the process of banning the antibiotics for growth promotion. It resulted in European Union antibiotic ban in 1999. This decision was based on political, scientific, and consumer opinions about the possible consequences for human health.

Was it worth it?

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Surprisingly, the results of the European ban were not as positive as scientist and politicians predicted. The ban mostly affected farmers, as now they had to find a way to keep their animals grow as fast as before to keep up with the production rate. As a result, they had to cut down the number of animals on their farms, in order to stop the spread of infections and diseases due to the lack of drugs.

What about animals?

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The withdrawal of antibiotics worsened lives and health of the animals. It increased the mortality rates, the number of infections and diseases, and led to a significant weight loss. For example, the loss in production of pigs still has not been recovered in Sweden. Moreover, the withdrawal led to increasing of use of therapeutic antibiotics in order to prevent the spread of infections on the farms.

So what now?

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The failure of European ban pushed scientists to look for more alternatives for antibiotics and hormones. They came up with a decision to include organic acids, enzymes, probiotics, minerals, and herbs in the diet of animals on the farms. The combination of these so-called pronutrients and good environments for animals is expected to give satisfactory results in meat production. They are mostly focused on digestive processes and stabilizing pH to decrease growth of bacteria.

Big moves

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With the spread of news and information about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, large meat production and meat user companies took an action. For example, Tyson Foods, Walmart, Subway, and McDonald's are planning to cut down the use of antibiotics during the next couple of years.

View this video on YouTube

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This video is a very good summary for my article. It describes a story of a farm in Europe, where people are trying not to use antibiotics for their animals. Moreover, it has an opinion of a scientist about the antibiotic-resistant bacteria and why people should be concerned about this problem.

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