The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just announced that the amount of antibiotics given to farm animals has increased sharply in recent years. Between 2009 and 2012, the quantity of antibiotics used for food-producing animals increased by 16 percent. This is not surprising, given that the FDA has taken a “voluntary guidance” approach instead of regulating the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Farm-to-Fork: Drug-Resistant Superbugs and Animal Antibiotics

Antibiotics are used by farmers to keep animals from getting sick in crowded, unsanitary conditions, and to boost animal growth. According to the CDC, there is a link between antibiotic use in animal agriculture and antibiotic resistance in human pathogens.

Animals are the biggest users of antibiotics in America — about 80 percent of antibiotics sold and distributed in the U.S. are given to farm animals. 

The Infectious Diseases Society of America says that antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health around the world. Right now, antibiotic resistance causes two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Experts expect that number to steadily rise.

The Power of Big Ag and Big Pharma

President Obama signed an executive order on September 18, creating a special task force to fight antibiotic resistance at the government level. That’s good news.

The bad news? Despite warnings and grave predictions from the CDC, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine, and almost every reputable medical organization in the world, the United States still has no official regulations in place.

The FDA’s plan to reduce antibiotic use in livestock is to issue voluntary guidelines — meaning industry may or may not comply. On top of that, a federal court recently decided that the FDA does not have to ban the routine feeding of antibiotics to food-producing animals. And now we learn in today’s news that drug use in animals is on the rise.

What You Can Do About Antibiotic Resistance:

1. Spread awareness.

Talk to friends, family, and people around you about the health crisis of antibiotic resistance. Show, don’t tell. Share these articles on Facebook, Twitter, or via email:

Hidden Hand Sanitizer Dangers

Why Neosporin May Harm More Than Heal

Dirty Clean Lies: Truth About Triclosan

Learning from Europe’s Fight Against Antimicrobial Resistance

2. Don’t overuse antibiotics.

Don’t take antibiotics for viral infections like the cold, cough, or flu. Take any antibiotics exactly as prescribed and discard them after use.

3. Don’t use everyday antibacterial products.

Practice good hygiene by hand-washing with natural soap, and don’t use antibacterial gel or soap. Avoid using antibacterial ointments like Neosporin for every little bump and scrape. Use an alternative like silver oxide ointment.

4. Show support for the war on antibiotic resistance.

Support antibiotic-free farms by buying organic meat. You can also write to your local legislator or support an organization like the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Featured Image: (CC) USDA

Naomi Imatome-Yun is a food, wellness, and lifestyle editor. Her work appears in USA Today, Yahoo, and Dining Out. She is the author of Cooking with Gochujang: Asia’s Original Hot Sauce and is a food expert for About.com. Naomi lives in Santa Monica and loves running, reading, beach volleyball, yoga, sculpture parks, and dancing around with her husband and kids.

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