Nick Brink recently shared his experience being treated with antibiotics to cure Lyme disease and suggested it was a reason to buy organic meat (A reason to buy organic meat, CDT Aug. 27).
While there are good reasons to buy organic meat, fear of antibiotics shouldn’t be one of them. Antibiotics are used in animal agriculture to treat diseases, just as they are being used to cure Nick. Few would argue that sick animals or humans should be denied life-saving treatments. Failure to treat sick animals or humans would be unethical. Once an animal is treated, their products are kept from the human food chain until the antibiotics are cleared during a withdrawal period.
Antibiotics also are used to increase growth efficiency. For this purpose, approved antibiotics are used at very low concentrations, typically administered in the feed. Animals treated in this manner are healthier, grow faster and are also subject to the withdrawal period before entering the food chain.
This use has come under more scrutiny recently due to the development of microbes resistant to certain antibiotics, which reduces their effectiveness in human medicine. Fortunately, the majority of antibiotics used for growth promotion in agriculture are rarely or never used in human medicine. Therefore, if the microbes become resistant to the antibiotic, it is not a concern for human medicine.
Animal scientists, veterinarians, pharmaceutical companies and farmers are working to reduce antibiotics important for human medicine and ensure a safe, healthy and sustainable food supply. Judicious use of antibiotics is an effective tool to that end.