Dr Oz: Antibiotics In Meat Making You Sick
Dr. Oz wanted to investigate whether a package of meat could be putting you and your family at risk for bacterial infections. Could the antibiotics used in meat actually be making you sick?
Studies have shown that treating farm animals with antibiotics is creating an epidemic of super-bugs. Some are so powerful that even the strongest antibiotics can’t get rid of them. Research shows that 80% of antibiotics sold in our country go to meat production, not your doctor’s office. Approximately two million Americans become sick each year because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. What’s even more shocking is that the urinary, stomach, and skin infections they cause can’t be cured by the usual antibiotics.
Using antibiotics in meat has been banned for years in many European countries, and the CDC has called for a significant reduction in antibiotics in the animals we eat. The FDA has only issued voluntary guidelines, so for now, there are no limits for the amount of antibiotics used in the meat we eat.
Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumer Reports, explained that a small amount of the antibiotics given to animals are used for disease treatment, but the vast amount is used for growth promotion and disease prevention.
Dr Oz: Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Dr. Oz explained that an animal we will eventually eat, like a pig, consumes antibiotics that eventually make it become larger. But when the antibiotics get into the animal, they kill of a lot of the good bacteria, while the resistant bacteria stay in the meat and end up on our hands, on our shelves, and in our kitchens. Through eating these super-bugs, we are at risk for developing skin infections, UTIs, or foodborne illnesses, which are more difficult to treat than the usual ones because the typical antibiotics used to treat them won’t work.
“As recently as 15 years ago, super-bugs were a hospital problem. But today, we are bringing super-bugs into our homes,” pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene reported. He added that it doesn’t matter what neighborhood you live in, or whether you’re rich or poor, young or old, the super-bugs can cause infections that are either difficult or impossible to treat.
He said the bugs can spread resistance among themselves so that today, most species of bacteria that cause infections in humans are more resistant than they used to be. He said it’s such a big health threat, that he believes the use of antibiotics to promote growth in animals, but people who have no medical training and possibly even no veterinary training, should be outlawed. “I think it’s really a crime what it’s doing to us,” Dr. Greene said.
Dr Oz: Antibiotics In Meat& Poultry
Consumer Reports has done many studies on the use of antibiotics in meat, and Dr. Oz asked Dr. Hansen if he felt as strongly about the issue as Dr. Greene. He said he does, and said it was a global health problem. He said the CDC and the World Health Organization, as well as the FDA have all said it’s a major public health threat. We could even get to the point that certain bacteria become resistant to all antibiotics, so we could functionally be back to the days before antibiotics, which as Dr. Oz said, is pretty scary to think about.
Dr. Greene has also made the argument that it’s an even bigger problem for kids than it is adults. He said kids are still developing their immune systems and get infections often, so they need antibiotics to work more often. He said this is the first generation to be exposed to many multi-drug resistant bacteria as kids.
Dr. Oz asked Dr. Hansen why the use of antibiotics in meat isn’t banned in the U.S. when it’s banned in other places in the world. He said it’s because of the power of the drug industry, explaining that back in 1977, the FDA said Penicillin and other antibiotics put into animal feed was not safe and should be banned. The drug industry intervened and stopped the FDA from doing anything. Now, 37 years later, we’re still using these drugs for growth promotion and disease prevention.
Dr. Oz explained that there are things we could do in our own homes to reduce our exposure. Dr. Hansen shared that a 2011 report from the USDA’s national antibiotic monitoring system found 81% of ground turkey, 69% of pork chops, 55% of ground beef, and 39% of chicken parts have the antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Dr Oz: How To Find Healthy Meat
Dr. Oz reached out to the USDA and they responded with the following statement: “The USDA does not mandate that labels state whether or not meat or poultry has been administered antibiotics.” That basically means they don’t have to tell us. So how could you tell if the meat you’re buying has more of the antibiotic resistant bacteria?
Dr. Hansen said a default assumption should be that the meat has come from animals treated with antibiotics, unless it is labeled as organic or no antibiotics administered/USDA process verified. That means there’s been an independent third party used to verify that no antibiotics were used in the treatment of those animals. He said there are a bunch of other labels that may say “no antibiotics used” but there’s no independent party verification so we don’t know how truthful those labels are.
Dr. Greene said that whenever we bring meat our poultry into our homes, consider it contaminated until it’s been thoroughly cooked. He means thoroughly washing surfaces and hands, and possibly even using gloves to handle the meat. Better yet, choose meat or poultry that’s organic or raised without antibiotics.
Dr. Oz also reached out to the FDA, who responded by saying, “The FDA is currently working with drug manufacturers to phase out the use of medically-important antimicrobials for food-production purposes and phase in the oversight of a veterinarian for the remaining therapeutic uses of such drugs. Once this is complete, it will be illegal to use these antibiotics for growth promotion purposes.