This is a global problem.
First of all I would encourage you to listen to the following TedTalk on YouTube; it truly brings to light the reality of antibiotic resistance in real life. It’s one thing being informed that there are strains of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, but it’s quite another seeing what that actually means – 700,000 deaths a year! At the current trajectory, that will increase to 10,000,000 a year by 2050, if left unchecked.
Antibiotic Resistance: What You Can Do to Prevent a Future Pandemic | Ravina Kullar | TEDxBend
Dr. Alexander Flemming, the man who discovered Penicillin, predicted this catastrophe 70 years ago, but it has taken us until now to finally take it seriously. People are dying because they get an infection after a relatively straight forward surgery and they never recover because none of the antibiotics work. Every time we use an antibiotic, its effects are lessened for using it again because the bacteria are building up their resistance to it.
The problem has become so severe that antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhoea, and foodborne diseases – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective.
In some areas, antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription and this causes the emergence and spread of resistance to be made worse by rampant overuse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public. Even in countries with guidelines they are often mis-prescribed, for example for the treatment of a virus, like a cold, where it has no effect anyway.
Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.
The World Health Organisation advises us that we as individuals can help prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance by following the guidelines below:
- Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional.
- Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them.
- Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics.
- Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
- Prevent infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
- Prepare food hygienically, following the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food (keep clean, separate raw and cooked, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperatures, use safe water and raw materials)
- Choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals.
Tyson foods was one of the first large US companies to make the move to alternative practices to keep animals healthy – too many companies use antibiotics (a) to encourage growth – though there is now an Act passed to prevent that, and (b) as a “preventative” measure for infections, as opposed to keeping animals healthy in the first place. See their declaration below:
”Tyson Foods is the world’s largest producer of no-antibiotics-ever (NAE) chicken. All chickens raised for the Tyson® retail brand are grown without using any antibiotics – ever. In addition, Tyson Foodservice offers chicken raised with no antibiotics ever under the Tyson Red Label™ brand Tyson True®Tenderpressed® brand, and select Tyson® individually frozen bone-in products. For the 2018-19 school year, all of Tyson K-12 commodity eligible poultry products will transition to no artificial ingredients and no antibiotics ever…..
We’ve been able to reduce the use of antibiotics in our chicken flocks through the use of antibiotics alternatives, such as probiotics and essential oils, as well as improved housing and breeding practices.
Because of our commitment to animal welfare we will still treat sick flocks with antibiotics, when necessary, however, these birds will not be used for products sold under the NAE label. We report on the use of antibiotics in our chicken business in our annual SUSTAINABILITY REPORT.”
Any food company that is this transparent regarding the information they supply to the consumer has to be doing the right thing. Tyson is a huge company and therefore has a huge market, so it is great to see such a giant making this move. Hopefully many others will follow. For now though, it is up to you to continue to do your own research, READ THE LABELS, look for the USDA Organic symbol, or “No antibiotics used in the raising of these animals”. It will definitely be stated on the label; if it is not, you can assume that the animal was raised with antibiotics. By eating that meat you are eating any antibiotic resistant bacteria that the animal contained and therefore if you ever get an infection yourself, even from a simple cut, the antibiotics prescribed have a significant chance of not working. This is a serious problem, please consider your options carefully when purchasing meat.