Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Antibiotic Article Gets Facts Wrong

Pressure rises to stop antibiotics in agriculture; animals fed 70 percent of US antibiotics

By: MARGIE MASON AND MARTHA MENDOZA Associated Press12/29/09 12:19 AM EST

FRANKENSTEIN, MO. — The mystery started the day farmer Russ Kremer got between a jealous boar and a sow in heat.

The boar gored Kremer in the knee with a razor-sharp tusk. The burly pig farmer shrugged it off, figuring: "You pour the blood out of your boot and go on."

But Kremer's red-hot leg ballooned to double its size. A strep infection spread, threatening his life and baffling doctors. Two months of multiple antibiotics did virtually nothing.

The answer was flowing in the veins of the boar. The animal had been fed low doses of penicillin, spawning a strain of strep that was resistant to other antibiotics. That drug-resistant germ passed to Kremer.

Like Kremer, more and more Americans — many of them living far from barns and pastures — are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics. These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people.

Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs — 28 million pounds — went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it's 50 percent. Read More

Efforts to restrict the ability to use antibiotics as an animal health tool have been going on for awhile now. As with many news article lately, this one didn’t stand up to the first “fact-check” I did. According to the story, there were 65,000 deaths from drug-resistant infections. We have no idea where this number came from since the reporters didn’t tell us. They claim that’s more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined. But one trip to the American Cancer Society website proved that wrong. So what else in this article is wrong? Was this done to make the story more dramatic? I doubt we will ever know for sure, but I continue to be amazed at the lack of integrity and professionalism of some journalists.

Along with that, to claim that it's all the fault of agriculture is insane. Any plan to regulate the use of antibiotics would need to address how humans regularly abuse the drugs.


-Dawn said...

Do we not immunize our children when they are healthy? (Yes, I know there are plenty of people out there who say we shouldn't even do THAT). Of course I disagree. I disagree with all of these either misunderstood statements or these statements that are meant to scare out of context... yet also statements that are so false that it's simply another attack on animal agriculture. Either way, these statments are wrong.

And to say antibiotics were given to healthy animals "to make them grow faster"... WHAT!?

This is our danger, people... individuals who call themselves journalists who have absolutely NO CLUE about the agricultural world.

Anonymous said...

How come they dont mention the use of the antibiotic triclosan in our hand soap, tooth paste, and whatever else? Ms. Slaughter made the argument that we dont use antibiotics everyday - but we do!

-Dawn said...

I found this interesting blog on Time's website. Of course I do remember their awful article regarding eating meat. However, this particular blog seemed to go a bit with what your article discusses, however, it's titled "Fear of lawsuits may drive doctors to overuse antibiotics".

You don't have to include this comment, Troy, I just thought it was interesting that animal producers are getting viewed so closely under the microscope, but what about the use of antibiotics for humans? Of course your initial article seems to blame the use of animal antibiotics on these problems.

Anyway, I hope that you and your family had a very blessed Christmas. Thanks for your time!

Anonymous said...


I am a farmer...and I do use antibiotics to make my animals grow faster, and I think it is very possible that it is bad for humans in the long run, so dont be so quick to point fingers.

I see you are a teacher. Maybe before you criticize those "individuals who call themselves journalists who have absolutely NO CLUE about the agricultural world," you should also read up more-and this is coming from someone in production agriculture.

Just because it may hurt my business if legislation against antibiotic use goes through, it doesnt mean that its not right.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above comment. I think think it's difficult at times to see the "right thing" when it could hurt your business.

-Dawn said...

Dear Anonymous Farmer,
I meant no disrespect. I appreciate you pointing out my lack of knowledge and it was wrong of me to jump to conclusions. I guess I have seen a lot of irresponsible journalism in my time and know that it can be detrimental to many things, including agriculture; however, that being said, that does not mean that perhaps I jumped to the wrong conclusion on some of this article. I am hesitant on things I read when sources are not noted on where a person gets statistics and things like that nature. As for the use of antibiotics for faster growth, I was wrong and I am very sorry. Thanks for your time.

Mike Haley said...

Anonymous farmer and Dawn,

Yes, there are several different types of antibiotics that we can feed
to help increase the growth rate in or cattle, however to state that
the 70 percent of antibiotics fed to animals is causing resistance in
humans is VERY misleading!

Most antibiotics that are fed to livestock are a completely different
class of antibiotics such as Ionophores. These are classified as Class
III by the FDA ( ) meaning that they have little
or no use in human medicine. Because of this the FDA says that these
feed additives should not be considered when measuring the resistance
of antibiotics in Humans, unfortunately activists still throw these
figures in attempting to skew public perception.