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Editorial: U.S. can live with fewer fatted calves

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
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Antibiotics, among the great medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, can be life-savers. But when doctors overprescribe them (often because patients demand them) and people take too many of them, they can lose their effectiveness when they’re really needed.

The same holds true for antibiotics routinely given to farm animals that are part of humans’ diet: They render the drugs less effective.

After trying to get farmers and ranchers to voluntarily stop using small amounts of antibiotics as a way to fatten up their cows, pigs and chickens, the Food and Drug Administration last week issued a new rule requiring, for the first time, a veterinarian’s prescription for such drugs. That will be welcome news if it reduces the level of antibiotics absorbed by humans from the meat that they eat — a level that causes an estimated 99,000 fatalities per year from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

There’s no reason — other than farmers’ profit motive — for 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in this country to be given to healthy animals. The new rule should result in the drugs only being administered when they’re truly needed — to help sick animals. And while it may create a headache for some farmers in remote areas underserved by veterinarians, it should greatly reduce human health problems.

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April 18, 2012
5:34 p.m.
+0 votes
albright1 says...

This is a poorly researched and written article. Even the New York Times article which you obviously used as the basis states explicitly that 99,000 people die from hospital acquired strains of resistant bacteria. It further states that it is unknown if any are the result of the use of antibiotics for livestock. Your editorial implies that 99,000 people die every year because of the use of antibiotics in farming. This is a blatantly false statement.

There is a great deal of research on this subject and you should have looked at it before scaring all your readers.


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