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Antibiotic Residues and our Health

One of the most important factors concerning people today is how the residues of antibiotics etc in thier food can affect our health and the health of our children and loved ones. It has been thirty years since the last independent advisory committee report in to antibiotics resistance passing from animals to humans. This report was carried out by the Swann Committee (Swann et al 1969), and it set out principals and regulations for the use of antibiotics in British agriculture, this influenced legislation worldwide.

This information all comes from a report by the Soil Association that was timed to come out at the same time as the publication of a report from the "Advisory Committee on the Microbial Safety of Food (ACMSF) - the first report from an advisory committee specifically to look at this issue since Swann."

It was hoped that this report would help in some way to draw more attention to this problem so that it would become a topic for debate.

The principle findings from the report are:

  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food has been found to be a greater risk to human health than antibiotic residues. There is a statutory residue surveillance programme in the UK to monitor residues found in food, however we don't have an equivalent scheme to monitor resistance.
  • Antibiotic resistance transferring from farm animals to humans is a greater risk than the risk of passing BSE from animal to human. This could potentially cost the Government and the NHS a massive amount of money, so enormous that it is unquantifiable.
  • The invention and supply of new antibiotics has slowed down substantially and no genuinely new classes have been developed for over twenty years. However the increase in multiple-drug resistance is increasing very alarmingly, for example some salmonella - 5% to 95% in twenty years, and MRSA - 2% to 40% in 10 years.
  • The first multiple-drug resistance in the UK was caused by over prescribing of antibiotics by veterinary surgeons.
  • The contribution from the agricultural industry to the problem of drug-resistance is constantly being underestimated.
  • There have been previous attempts to reduce the use of antibiotics within the agricultural industry, but these have been unsuccessful. This is due to factors such as new drugs used in place of the banned ones and loopholes being exploited.
  • It is as greater threat to use routine prophylaxis with therapeutic antibiotics as it is to use growth promoting antibiotics, and much greater threat than full therapeutic treatment for short periods.
  • There have been bans on several growth promoting antibiotics, however despite this the overall threat they pose has not been reduced.
  • The overall use of antibiotics in agriculture must be reduced, and ideally to less than half of the present level.
  • The British government (over the last year) have allowed a previously little-used antibiotic growth promoter to be used, and now it is fed to virtually every boiler chicken in the UK. This growth promoter is called avilamycin and it is almost identical to Ziracin, which is believed by many to be the best new life-saving drug we will see in the next decade. This drug (Ziracin) is already on trial in British hospitals against three superbugs, VRE, MRSA and multiple-drug resistant strains of meningitis and pneumonia. As far as research goes Britain has not carried out any to see if it is safe. But in Denmark research has been carried out and the findings are that the two antibiotics are totally cross-resistant, and that avilamycin may also be selecting for resistance to vancomycin, currently still the most important antibiotic for treating superbugs. A few days after this report was published, day old chicks with a 42 day life expectancy, that were put on avilamycin because of the ban on other growth promoters, will be on sale.
  • Our country has offered no advice on how to cope with the ban on certain antibiotics in animals, other EU member states are more organised and have offered advice. Because of this they have been put at a commercial disadvantage, and this comes at a time when it is hard for farmers in general. Most farmers because they are unsure how to tackle this problem with banns, have just started to give more of the antibiotics still permitted. In the cases of Sweden and Denmark, they have changed their methods of production to cope with this ban, but the British have not.

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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