Every few months, an outbreak of sickness and death caused by lethal strains of E. Coli and other “super bugs” makes the headlines. These bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics. Why? One reason, according to scientists, is that unlike grass-fed beef, low levels of antibiotics are being routinely fed to industrially-raised cattle to make them grow faster and protect them from diseases caused by their living conditions. Thousands of animals are crowded together into massive feedlots for months at a time, where they stand in their own wastes and gorge on grains that upset their normal digestive systems. The bacteria happily seize the opportunity to multiply and evolve into new strains resistant to the antibiotics. And they aren’t choosy about their hosts– humans do quite nicely.
Someone must be doing something about this, right? Think again. According to David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA doesn’t even know what antibiotics are being fed to our food animals. Legislation authorizing the FDA to collect this data can’t get out of a Senate committee. Too bad. As Kessler says, the problem is rapidly becoming a matter of life and death.