Antibiotics in Livestock

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This is your chicken. This is your chicken on drugs. Any questions? There are plenty actually around the longtime use of antibiotics in animals to make them grow faster and resistant to disease. The unintended side effect has been to make us immune to these same drugs when it comes to treating illness while creating super bacteria that are resistant to the same antibiotics that we reply on to protect ourselves. The U.S. government is now moving to limit their use in the commercial food chain but what are we doing north of the border?

Part Two of The Current

Antibiotics in Livestock - American Veterinary Medical Association

Antibiotics were the 20th century farmer's best friend. By using them, livestock grew more quickly, and that meant higher profits in less time. But by the 1970s, public health officials began to worry about overuse.

The antibiotics became less effective as bacteria grew immune to the drugs. It became a human health crisis when these resistant strains began infecting humans. It's estimated almost a hundred thousand people die every year from infections cause by these superbugs.

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, announced new guidelines intended to curb the use of antibiotics in livestock. Doctor Christine Hoang is with the American Veterinary Medical Association and has been working with the FDA on this issue. We reached her in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Antibiotics in Livestock - Veterinarians Without Borders

A little more than a year ago, Erica Johnson, co-host on CBC Television's Marketplace, filed a report on antibiotic resistance in Canadian food production that raised a few eyebrows and turned a few stomachs.

Health Canada says antibiotics are added to the feed of food-producing animals for three reasons: to promote growth, to increase feed efficiency and to prevent infections. Ottawa is now funding research to test ways farmers can cut down on the use of antibiotics in livestock without reducing production.

And Health Canada says it is currently reassessing those antimicrobial drug products that make growth promotion claims. Still, there are those who say we should be going further.

Enid Stiles is the incoming president of Veterinarians Without Borders. She was in Montreal.

Antibiotics in Livestock - Canadian Pork Council

For the industry perspective on this, we were joined by Dawn Lawrence, the National coordinator for the Canadian Quality Assurance program of the Canadian Pork Council. She was in Truro, Nova Scotia.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson, Chris Wodskou and Pacinthe Mattar.

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