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Danger from Antibiotics in the Food Supply

07.11.11 Danger from Antibiotics in the Food Supply

Nicholas Kristof wrote a compelling piece for the New York Times today about the rampant overuse of antibiotics in our food supply.   I wrote about this issue a few weeks ago at Non-Toxic Kids when sharing about joining the Moms for Antibiotic Awareness. 

Now upon reading this piece I am struck by some of Kirstof's comments.  

"Every year in the United States,325,000 people are hospitalized because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s right: food kills one person every two hours.

Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer."

To frame the discussion in that way, to point to everything that has happened as a result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the inaction on food safety, illustrates how alarming our complacency about this issue really is. 

Another striking fact he shared was this one:

"The single state of North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans." Say what? We need to save antibiotics for when they really matter-- saving lives, instead of a way to inhumanely crowd thousands of animals in windowless buildings.

And lastly, lest you think that you are immune because you are a vegetarian (ahem) or you feed your family antibiotic free foods, think again: "Vegetarians may think that they’re immune, but they’re not. E. coli originates in animals but can spill into water used to irrigate vegetables, contaminating them. The European E. coli outbreak apparently arose from bean sprouts grown on an organic farm in Germany."

Kristof ends by calling for food safety reform that bans the use of antibiotics on healthy livestock. Parents need to ban together to tell our legislators we want reform that will protect our families from the rampant overuse of antibiotics in our food supply. Where to start? Join this group to learn more and take action. 

You can also support this new bill from U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).  S. 1211, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2011 (PAMTA) amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to withdraw seven classes of antibiotics critical for treating infections in humans from use on industrial farms unless animals or herds are sick with disease.  I'll keep you posted about how we can support this important bill.  

image:  Kurt Budliger Photography

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