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Letter: Antibiotics used in food as well

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Your editorial on overuse of antibiotics, leading to drug resistant micro-organisms, was interesting but misguided.  According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, just under 36 million pounds of antibiotics were used by humans and food animals in 2009, the latest year we have statistics for.  Of that, under 20 percent was for use in humans and just over 80 percent was used for food animals.

It is common knowledge that food animals, sick or not, are routinely dosed with antibiotics, “sub-therapeutic usage,” to promote increased weight gain.  There is an increasing amount of evidence suggesting that the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals can pose a health risk to humans. If a group of animals is treated with a certain antibiotic over time, the bacteria living in those animals will become resistant to that drug.  The

problem for humans is that if a person ingests the resistant bacteria via improperly cooked meat and becomes ill, he or she may not respond to antibiotic treatment.

Concern about this has led to the banning of sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals in Canada and many countries in Europe. In the United States, however, such use is still legal. Powerful interests are more concerned with the extra 3 percent weight gain in food animals than in the health and well-being of consumers.

Many human medical conditions can only be treated with antibiotics, and antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria are a real problem.  But to suggest that patients should ask their doctors to stop prescribing antibiotics, and possibly reduce the effectiveness of their treatment, will solve no problems.

The issue of resistant bacteria is complex, and its successful resolution will be complex as well, involving the 80 percent as well as the 20 percent. To raise the issue in your editorial and not print one word about antibiotic use in food animals was not serving the needs of your readers.

Kenneth Shepard

Park Rapids

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