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Recall Prompts More Calls for Action on Ag Antibiotics

Reacting to the most ground beef recall and outbreak involving an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest are again calling for federal action on the growing public health threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

 
groundbeefhunk-406.jpg“When we go to the grocery store to pick up dinner, we should be able to buy our food without worrying that what we put on our plates is exposing our families to dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” said Slaughter in a statement Monday. “How much longer is the federal government going to wait before waking up to the public health threat, looming quite literally, under our noses?”

“We have a duty to protect the public health, and frankly the foot-dragging we are seeing on this issue here in Washington is legislative malpractice.”

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said Hannaford, a Scarborough, ME-based grocery chain, had initiated a recall of an undetermined amount of fresh ground beef that may be contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium, after a 14 person outbreak was linked to the product.

Individuals linked to the outbreak purchased beef in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, Slaughter’s home state.

The outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium has initially tested resistant to multiple commonly prescribed antibiotics, including drug classes such as beta-lactams, aminoglycosides and cephalosporins, which can make the illnesses harder to treat. Seven of the 14 people linked to the outbreak have been hospitalized.

“If an animal is sick, it should be treated,” said Slaughter, who has sponsored legislation aimed at limiting antibiotic usage in animal agriculture. “But the routine, regular dosing of antibiotics to healthy animals is absolutely contributing to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It would be like a mother sprinkling antibiotics on their son or daughter’s Cheerios every morning to prevent them from getting sick. It’s ridiculous. We must act now or we will continue to see more and more cases like this as we diminish the effectiveness of life-saving medications.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is attacking the issue from a different angle. The group has petitioned FSIS to declare certain antibiotic-resistant strains Salmonella, including Typhimurium, as adulterants, which would make them illegal in meat and poultry products.

“That declaration would trigger enhanced testing for these dangerous pathogens, and could minimize their entry into commerce,” the group said Monday.

“FSIS says it is developing regulations to require better recordkeeping by retailers who grind beef–but that process can take years and consumers cannot afford to wait.  Retailers must be responsible for keeping track of where beef is coming from so that they can assist FSIS and consumers with timely traceback during an outbreak investigation.”

© Food Safety News
  • Derek

    It’s about time someone in Washington puts their foot down on this issue. I totally agree with banning antibiotic use in animals (unless of course they are truly sick with an illness). I buy organic meat and produce for our family and quite frankly, the cost is crippling our family budget. It would be nice if the use of these hormones and anti-biotics becomes outlawed. Thank you, Louise Slaughter, for standing up for us, the consumer, and for fighting this good fight.

  • DJ

    U.S. Government agencies who are supposed to be working to keep our food supply safe, are not doing their job. They refuse to put the health and safety of many, before the profits for a few. Our tax dollars are not being used to benefit the people, or keep us safe from harm. And large corporations are given many more rights then the American citizens get to have.

  • JB

    @ Derek, you stated that the cost of buying organic meet and produce is “crippling our family budget.” Well, I am not sure if you are aware of the fact that if producers did not use antibiotics in food, the price of all meat would go up. Did you know that USDA farms have veterinary oversight that ensure the judicious use of antibiotics in food producing animals? Veterinarians who ensure that proper withdrawl periods are observed?
    I think that it is easy to point fingers when things go wrong, but easy to overlook the thousands of pounds of meat and produce American farmers bring to the table each year. Believe it or not, we have one of THE safest food systems in the world. I beg to differ on the fact that the government is watching out for our best interests.

  • Michael Bulger

    JB, the USDA’s own researchers suggest that the markets would adjust to a ban on human-class antibiotics for subtherapeutic usage in livestock.
    Unfortunately, current antibiotic use is covering for substandard conditions that negatively affect hog productivity and worker safety. These include lack of cleanliness, outdated management, and poor genetics in livestock. The producers with the better animal management practices would see the least effect of a restriction on antibiotics. Those that adjusted their handling of the animals would not see as much difference as those that continued to raise animals in squalid and cramped conditions.
    Subtherapeutic antibiotics prop up livestock operations that are otherwise ill-suited for the business.
    Some researchers have concluded that a ban on subtherapeutic antibiotics would actually benefit producers and consumers by increasing demand and lowering costs. The perceived improvement in the health and safety of pork would increase sales and allow producers to sell pork for less.
    Whatever the costs or benefits to the industry and the consumers may be, they have to be weighed against the effects on public health. On the farm level, resistant bacteria can be transferred to workers and their families. It can also drift off the farm in our water and soil.
    We should all be thankful that residues are regulated in our food supply, but we must also realize that all the meat we eat is not sampled and tested. This site posts recalls due to unsafe levels of antibiotics, and we would be safe to assume that many adulterated products make it into our kitchens undetected. Further, antibiotic-resistant pathogens are found all too often and exact a terrible toll.
    Wouldn’t it be worth it to weather a temporary market fluctuation to improve livestock farming and protect human health?

  • BB

    I agree with Michael B………

  • Jennifer

    If buying organic free range meat is “killing your budget” why not consider eating less meat? Americans consume an obscene amount of meat & it’s really not good for us overall. While I’m not saying anyone should go vegetarian, consider reducing your animal consumption and eat a diet that is more plant based. It’s far less expensive and better for everyone.

  • federal microbiologist

    Let’s look at the ‘Mercy for Animals’ undercover footage of the Iowa Select Farms pig CAFO in Kamrar, Iowa, last Spring (http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-23671-this-little-piggie-gets-tortured.html).
    Hmmm…..we have piglets with their tails being snipped off using a dull tin shears; no bandages or antibacterial ointment get applied to the bleeding stumps. Maybe some fecal bacteria in the pig house will get into those wounds ?
    We see piglets being castrated without anesthetic, using the same rusty scalpel from one animal to another; when their intestines protrude from the incisions in their bellies, the hired help wraps bandages around the animals’ lower abdomens to try and keep loops of intestine from poking out of the incisions. Could these incisions be another site for infection ?
    The citybeat article contacts an Ohio production animal veterinarian named Lavinia Hultgren, who declares that piglets aren’t pained by castration because “….the nervous system develops from the front of the pig to the back, that those signals are not maturely processed.”
    And a former ‘Iowa Pork Princess’ working at the Kamrar CAFO tosses piglets around like softballs because ‘pigs are very bouncy’.
    The undercover footage of the Kamrar facility shows adult animals with a variety of gross lesions resulting from inept castration, inadequately supervised farrowing, and other CAFO-related activities. These lesions clearly are long-standing and have gone untreated by the Kamrar CAFo managers.
    Is it any wonder that corporations like Iowa Select Farms need to pump their pigs with antibiotics in order to ‘maintain animal health’ ?
    Maybe if their pigs didn’t have open wounds, they might not need antibiotics all the time.
    In the aftermath of the Kamrar video footage, Iowa Select Farms has been hard at work on Damage Control. This holiday season they made a carefully publicized giveaway of free pork to food pantries:
    http://globegazette.com/business/iowa-select-farms-donates-pork-loins/article_1748d58e-17ba-11e1-a745-001cc4c03286.html
    It’s no secret that production animal DVMs turn a carefully blinded eye towards those features of CAFOS and IFAP that mandate the continuous, indiscriminate use of bulk antibiotics, even while stridently declaring that “…I care about the issue of antibiotic resistance.”
    http://www.cattlenetwork.com/bovine-vet/industry-news/Explaining-antibiotic-use-135536703.html?ref=703
    The longer production animal vets, and industry-supported organizations like the USAHA, chant the mantra for the bulk use of antibiotics, the harder it will be for them to convince observers that CAFOs represent a ‘best practice’ for maintaining animal health.
    The ignorant public comments of vets like Howie Hill of Iowa Select Farms, and the abovementioned Lavinia Hultgren, do little to convince the public health community that production animal DVMs can speak with authority about ‘judicious’ use of antibiotics in CAFOs and other institutions representative of ‘modern agriculture’.

  • Diane

    Feed lot practices have to be stopped. They have to be given antibiotics. The over-abundance of bad bacteria in the beef is caused by corn feeding the poor animals. Their guts are not designed to handle all that sugar. The factory butchering process is gross as well and definitely contributes to the problem because there will always be a certain amount of bacteria in the cows. But we never had a problem with our grass fed beef raised on our farm and butchered locally. Nor do we have issues with the local grass fed beef we now buy. hmmm.
    I would love to see a politician like Slaughter actually address the problem rather than proselytize over the use of the antibiotics which is not the issue at all.

  • We’ve already made a difference, now it’s your turn. Buy local, non hormone or antibiotic loaded, grass fed beef. We’ll get, or split a half or quarter cow with someone for about $4 a pound, packaged, frozen and delivered. The market will follow demand, organic prices have dropped considerably, I bought a pound of coffee yesterday- organic was the same price. Watch ‘Food Inc.’, feedlots CAUSE the ecoli problem, if the cows were finished the last three days by being grass fed, ecoli problem gone. Eat better and don’t worry about all the ways you’re hurting your family, or the environment! Netflix link:
    http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Food_Inc./70108783?trkid=496624