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Organic Trade Association's Organic Newsroom: Report calls out health threat from antibiotic overuse in livestock
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2013 Press Releases

 

Report calls out health threat from antibiotic overuse in livestock

Organic offers clear choice for those seeking foods produced without this use

Contact: Jessica Shade, Ph.D., The Organic Center, Phone 202-403-8517, 444 N. Capitol St. NW, DC 20001

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 17, 2013)—Pointing out that every year more than two million people in the United States get infections resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a result, a new report issued this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls for phasing out the routine use of antibiotics in industrial livestock production that has been linked to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The use of antibiotics in animal rearing is strictly prohibited in organic production. Instead, organic producers provide living conditions and health care practices that help prevent illness and to promote health of the animals.

“Up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary,” CDC declared, citing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently proposed guidance for using these drugs in food-producing animals only when medically necessary and targeting their use to only address diseases and health problems.

“This report is confirmation of warnings issued years ago by scientists about the use of antibiotics in livestock and the development of resistant strains as a consequence of their use,” said Warren Porter, professor of zoology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and member of The Organic Center’s Science Advisory Board. He added, “The problem is all the more serious now because of emerging evidence of subtle immune suppression in the human population as evidenced by the rise of diseases related to reduced immune competence.”

“By choosing meat and dairy products bearing the organic label, consumers can avoid contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” said Jessica Shade, Ph.D., Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. “Several studies have also found fewer antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria on organic foods. If you’re worried about dietary exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, choosing organic is a good idea.”

She added, “Statistics released by FDA show that animal production uses over 29 million pounds of antibiotics annually. If everyone chose just one organic product out of every 10 they purchased, we could eliminate over 2.5 million pounds of unnecessary antibiotic use each year. That could go a long way in reducing the development of antibiotic resistance.” [See infographic]

In addition to prohibiting the use of antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones in organic livestock production, U.S. national organic standards require organic livestock to be fed 100 percent organic feed and given access to pasture and the outdoors. The standards prohibit the use of genetic engineering, toxic and persistent pesticides, and sewage sludge on fields. Organic operations are federally regulated, with third-party certification by a U.S. Department of Agriculture-accredited certifier.

The Organic Center's mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming, and to communicate the findings to the public. As an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association, The Center envisions improved health for the Earth and its inhabitants through the conversion of agriculture to organic methods.