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Antibiotics used in Intensive Farms

One of the other key issues surrounding the argument for and against organic farms is antibiotics in food. Antibiotics have been used in modern farming as growth promoters for nearly fifty years, but what effect do these antibiotics have on our health? And why has this issue never been brought up before?

As a preventative measure or to treat illness intensively farmed animals are fed antibiotics on a daily basis. But this also has a growth promoting side effect. Antibiotics in animals are often similar if not identical to those used to treat humans, and just as humans become immune to antibiotics when given on a regular basis, so do animals. Bacteria are able to transmit their resistant qualities to us very easily. This means that the antibiotics become resistant to the antibiotics we use to treat human illnesses, which reduces the effectiveness of the treatment available.

  • The total use of antibiotics in the farming industry has risen by 11% in the last three years, when it was supposed to fall.
  • Most farm animals in the UK are given antibiotics in their feed every day wether they are ill or not.
  • Compared with Denmark, Britain give over three times the weight of antibiotics to pigs.

Antibiotics are also found in eggs and here are some of the findings from a report published on the Soil Associations website. In 2003 eggs were tested for antibiotics etc and over 12% of the eggs tested had lasalocid - a toxic antibiotic in them, these tests were carried out by government scientists. Some of the eggs were found to have much higher levels of lasalocid than ever recorded before in Britain. There was even one sample of organic eggs found to have this antibiotic in. Over the last six years there has been increasing incidences of lasalocid residues found in eggs, this is according to official figures. However, feeding lasalocid to any laying hens is illegal.

For nearly thirty years lasalocid has been included in some poultry feeds to control parasitic infection. However, recently it has become apparant that the eggs are considerably contaminated. There are still many unknown factors to this argument but if you examine the evidence that is available then it indicates that these residues can have a negative impact on our health. Here are some of the health implications from the report featured on the Soil Associations website, the people most likely to be at the largest risk from residues of lasalocid are:

  • People who are on diets that recommend eating lots of eggs, like the Atkins Diet.
  • Unborn children, because of their inability to break down toxic chemicals
  • If babies have lasalocid residues in their breast milk, some infant formula feeds and cooked egg yokes as a weaning food.
  • Any young child with a heart condition.
  • Elderly people.
  • Anyone who suffers with cardiacarrhythmias, atrial fibrillation and other tachycardias, such as Tony Blair, The Prime Minister.
  • Anyone who suffers with heart conditions, or high blood pressure.

It also suggests in this report that there is a conceivable link between lasalocid remainders in food and adult sudden death syndrome.

Regulatory Muddle

Even though this is an essential requirement in all veterinary medicines there are no legally allowed maximum residue limits for lasalocid and other antibiotic feed additives in food in the UK.

In Australia there are maximum residue limits for lasalocid in eggs. If this were to happen in the UK then all the eggs that were reported in 2003 to have lasalocid residues in them would be illegal, because they all would be over the legal limit. However this is not just a problem for the UK there are many countries that don't even test for lasalocid residues.

The sources of Contamination

Lasalocid is permitted in young birds intended to become layers, turkey, boiler chickens, pheasant, and quail feed. But it is illegal in laying-hen feed. However, there is a complication at the feed mill, cross-contamination of the feed is the largest source of the problem. Also adding to the problem is; the use in young birds near laying age, the wrong feed being delivered, wrong feed being fed on the farm, and failure to clean lorries between loads, are all implicated.

Which eggs are affected?

Battery eggs are found to have the most frequent residues, however they are also found in barn and free-range systems. Organic eggs were found to have no residues, until recently, one sample of an organic egg in 2003 was found to have contained 60 µg/kg.

Eggs which get contaminated are not dispersed evenly. If one egg in the box is found to be contaminated then it is likely that every egg is also contaminated.


Monitoring has become inadequate, the problem is getting worse but the amount of testing is about half of the amount of testing compared to ten years ago. The amount of eggs that are eaten compared with the amount tested for residues is ridicules. As a nation we ate about 10 billion eggs in 2003 compared with just 221 samples tested.

Britain does not test individual eggs any more, instead they test a mixture of 12 eggs. The Food Standards Agency confirmed that results are average figures, which may not fully reflect the contamination levels in individual eggs.

Since 1999 no egg based baby food has been tested, chicken liver is no longer tested using the most sensitive methods and infant formula feed containing egg-yolk lecithin has never been tested.

Some of the text above is from an article on the Soil Associations website - Click Here to view original article



Organic Farming Pages - Topics & Content

Organic Farms Page 1

For and Against Organic Farming - advantages and disadvantages


Organic Farms Page 2:

Animal Welfare

Chickens - Organic Farms v Intensive Farms

Eggs - Organic Farms v Intensive Farms


Organic Farms Page 3:

Pigs - Organic Farms v Intensive Farms

Homeopathy used in Organic Farms

Arguements Against Organic farms

Organic Lettuce - E. Coli Debate


Organic Farms Page 4:

Antibiotics used in Intensive Farms

Regulatory Muddle

The sources of Contamination

Which eggs are affected?



Organic Farms Page 5:

Antibiotic Residues and our Health


Organic Farms Page 6:

Key Recommendations - Bans and Restrictions:

Key Recommendations - The Veterinary Profession


Organic Farms Page 7:

Food Quality and your Health

Antibiotic use is cut in organic farming

GMO's banned in organic farming

BSE - organically reared or born cattle are BSE free

Food poisoning risks are minimised by using organic standards and methods

Organic farming nurtures the soil

Organic farming returns nutrients to the soil

Organic farming rotates crops




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