Meat Animals And Antibiotics Usage.
Almost 80% of all antibiotics in the United States aren’t taken by people. They’re given to cows, pigs, and chickens to make them grow more quickly or as a cheap alternative to keeping them healthy. These drugs could give rise to superbugs—bacteria that can’t be treated with modern medicine—and things are only getting worse. In 2013, more than 131,000 tons of antibiotics were used in food animals worldwide; by 2030, it will be more than 200,000 tons. In a paper published in Science on 28 September 2017, epidemiologist Thomas Van Boeckel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and colleagues outline the growing threat—and what can be done about it. Most countries have taken baby steps to limit the use of antibiotics in animals. For example, in the United States, certain drugs can’t be used in food production, but loopholes in the legislation may still allow antibiotics to be used as growth promoters. If we are serious about antimicrobial resistance, there is a need for more ambitious policies. We tested three different strategies to reduce antibiotic use worldwide. The first one is cutting down meat consumption: in the United States, people eat on average 260 grams of meat per day. Reducing the meat consumption to 165 grams of meat per day—or four standard fast food hamburgers per person—would reduce the global consumption of antimicrobials by more than 20%. Last year, the O’Neill Review, a report on antimicrobial resistance, proposed a cap of 50 milligram of antimicrobials per year per kilogram of animal product. At the moment there is no cap on antibiotic use. We calculated that if we applied that cap to China and the member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we could reduce antibiotic use by 60%. Thirdly, taxing the antibiotics used in agriculture when they come out of the factory or at the point of import is to make antibiotics more expensive so that farmers and veterinarians would only use them when necessary. Imposing a 50% tax on antibiotics for food animals could decrease global consumption by more than 30%, and at the same time generate revenues from $1.7 to 4.6 billion, which could be invested into research for new antibiotics or improvements to farm hygiene. Credit: Giorgia Guglielmi for Science 28 September 2017.
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