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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reducing antibiotics in animal feed is a good step in fighting drug-resistant bacteria

Last month I got to use the funny phrase "crow poop" in a column, but as the headline indicated it was part of a serious topic: The spread of drug-resistant bacteria due to our overuse of antibiotics, both for humans and in animal feed. The column talked about how drug-resistant bacteria had been found in the feces of crows, a sign of how the problem is spreading through the environment.

The topic isn't funny, as a friend of mine learned recently when she got an MRSA infection, which was painful and long-lasting. The CDC has even warned that we might entering a "post-antibiotic era," which is very bad, indeed.

As you have have heard the Food and Drug Administration took steps yesterday to reduce casual use of antibiotics in animal feed, by getting manufaturers to remove "growth promotion" as a labeled use of antibiotics in livestock. Roughly 80 percent of the nation's antibiotic use involves routein feeding to pigs, cows, chickens and other livestock because (for unknown reasons) it makes them grow faster.

This isn't an absolute ban, and there are easy work-arounds, but at least it's a first step.

Here's an NY Times story about the new action. Let's hope more action follows.