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Ear to the Ground

Farm Animals Hog 80 Percent of U.S. Antibiotics

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Posted on Dec 27, 2010
Flickr / The Pug Father (CC-BY)

The overuse of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant superbugs, so it’s cause for concern to the folks at Johns Hopkins’ Center for a Livable Future that the vast majority of bug-killing drugs aren’t even consumed by sick humans.

Center for a Livable Future via Wired:

In accordance with a 2008 amendment to the Animal Drug User Fee Act, for the first time the FDA released last week an annual amount of antimicrobial drugs sold and distributed for use in food animals. The grand total for 2009 is 13.1 million kilograms or 28.8 million pounds. I found the stories covering this revelation interesting, but they did not convey the whole picture. It is important to understand how this amount compares to the total available for people. So, I decided to find out for myself and contacted the FDA for an estimate of the volume of antibiotics sold for human use in 2009. This is what a spokesperson told me:

“Our Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology just finished an analysis based on IMS Health data. Sales data in kilograms sold for selected antibacterial drugs were obtained as a surrogate of human antibacterial drug use in the U.S. market. Approximately 3.3 million kilograms of antibacterial drugs were sold in year 2009. OSE states that all data in this analysis have been cleared for public use by IMS Health, IMS National Sales Perspectives™.”

3.3 million kilograms is a little over 7 million pounds. As far as I can determine, this is the first time the FDA has made data on estimates of human usage public. Below is a breakdown of the FDA numbers prepared by my colleague, Dr. David Love, also from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, which compares the estimated amounts of human usage with food animal usage.

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By Raymond Quillen, December 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you really want a surprise, check the price paid by
the farmer and compare it to the price per pill or shot
paid by the ill person who gets the same drug in a
prescription!!!!
  Ray Quillen

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, December 28, 2010 at 11:01 pm Link to this comment

FRThotus “To suggest that these chemicals/drugs are not making it into our food and water supply is ignorant. “
Gosh who is making such an insane suggestion - nevertheless the dilution of that vector is mild in comparison to directly consuming the sick animal pumped with the bacteria-resisting antibiotics.

Typical carnivorous rationalizations.

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By RayLan, December 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm Link to this comment

JRG “equally malevolent toxins that are added to the fruits and vegetables that non-
meat eaters consume. “

They aren’t giving anti-biotics to plants - but there is no doubt that they are contaminated by their proximity to factory farms. Toxins concentrate at they move up the food chain - so the worse adulteration is at the top - the animal.
It still vindicates vegetarianism at least as a way of minimizing the intoxication, especially if one gets one’s fruits and vegetables directly from trusted farmers and not the supermarket. It presents no valid rationalization for meat-consumption. The logic is skewed (no pun intended)

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By JRG, December 28, 2010 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment

while this article clearly indicates the health hazard to meat eaters, it ignores the
equally malevolent toxins that are added to the fruits and vegetables that non-
meat eaters consume.

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By FRTothus, December 28, 2010 at 11:57 am Link to this comment

To suggest that these chemicals/drugs are not making it into our food and water supply is ignorant.

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By RayLan, December 28, 2010 at 5:35 am Link to this comment

This is further vindication of my vegetarian diet. Another problem with the culture - Americans eat too much - and too much of the wrong thing. Obesity is pandemic. Food is cheap because it is mass produced - when you factory-farm animals - they get sick -especially when they’re genetically bred to gain a lot of weight in a short amount of time. Another example of the brutality of corporate exploitation.

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