The Antibiotics You May Be Eating Without Knowing It

13 March, 2012 at 07:12 | Posted in Body & Mind, Environmental issues, Food, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Martha Rosenberg

In 2008, the FDA announced that “evidence that extra-label use of these drugs [cephalosporins] in food-producing animals will likely cause an adverse event in humans and, as such, presents a risk to the public health,” and called for their prohibition. Notice the FDA says “will likely cause,” not “could likely cause” and “presents a risk” not “could present a risk”?

But by the time hearings were held two months later and lobbyists had worked their magic, the “Cephalosporin Order of Prohibition” had somehow become a “Hearing to Review the Advances in Animal Health Within the Livestock Industry.”

At the hearings, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Animal Health Institute, a Big Pharma trade group, and the egg, chicken, turkey, milk, pork, and cattle industries complained that they could not farm without antibiotics because more feed would be required, and the animals would get sick from being immobilized over their own manure.

“To raise turkeys without antibiotics would increase the incidence of illness in turkey flocks,” said the National Turkey Federation’s Michael Rybolt, Ph.D. Antibiotics “reduce the level of potentially harmful bacteria, which result in infections and sickness,” said the National Milk Producers Federation’s Robert D. Byrne, Ph.D.

Antibiotics decrease the amount of land needed to raise animals and provide a lower priced “wholesome” product for the public, said one farm operator after another. One even claimed that manure is reduced because animals eat less.

While most agriculture reps at the hearings defended the use of antibiotics for “treatment, prevention, and control of disease,” the AVMA’s Christine Hoang, D.V.M., actually went so far as to call the less feed that antibiotics make possible a “health-promoting” effect and a “therapeutic use.” Maybe she meant health and therapy for the bottom line.

After the hearings, W. Ron DeHaven, D.V.M., who was the USDA’s top vet before leaving for industry and helming the AVMA, penned a rambling, almost incoherent 18-page letter with 62 footnotes to the FDA.

The letter went something like this: Cephalosporin-resistant “human pathogens” aren’t increasing, and even if they are, they’re not affecting human health, and even if they’re affecting human health, how do you know it’s from the livestock drugs, and even if it’s from the livestock drugs, the FDA has no legal authority to ban cephalosporin.

The letter plays on terrorism fears by calling a cephalosporin ban a “food security issue” affecting “the number of animals available for the food supply.” It also plays on humanitarian sentiments by claiming a ban would impede veterinarians’ ability “to relieve the pain and suffering of animals” as if cephalosporins are painkillers and other drugs aren’t available. (And as if antibiotics are given for animals’ welfare instead of revenue welfare!)

Nowhere in the letter is there mention of the reason Big Meat won’t let go of antibiotics: The industry is able to raise thousands of animals in crowded conditions that would otherwise kill them and for prices as artificial as the drugs they are raised on.

Big Pharma’s invasion into farming is probably the biggest reason for the demise of family farms, which are no longer able to compete on price. Less than a month after the letter was sent, on Nov. 25, the FDA quietly revoked the prohibition. Good hire, AVMA!

Of course, the revolving door between government and Big Pharma lobbying has a distinguished tradition from Louisiana representative-turned-lobbyist Billy Tauzin, who presided over the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) until 2010, to former CDC Director Julie Gerberding, M.D., who prepared the country for flu outbreaks before turning up as head of Merck vaccines when she left the government.

The Antibiotics You May Be Eating Without Knowing It (Part 1)

This is the second part of a four-part series.

Next week: Antibiotics injected directly into eggs, and other Big Pharma secrets.

Martha Rosenberg is a health reporter and author who lives in Chicago.

via The Antibiotics You May Be Eating Without Knowing It Part 2 | Western Medicine | Health | Epoch Times

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