90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Are Antibiotics In Our Meat Breeding Superbugs?

Antibiotics and the meat we eat. The volumes are huge. Maybe breeding superbugs. We look for a better way.

Cattle is kept in pens at a feedlot southwest of Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. (AP)

Cattle is kept in pens at a feedlot southwest of Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010. (AP)

Everybody knows the basic issue with antibiotics. Overuse them, or casually use them, and you undercut the miraculous effectiveness of one of the most important classes of drugs humans have ever found.

Now here’s a shocker: today, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are sold for animals. For livestock. For feed. The meat we eat is overwhelmingly produced in a factory farm system that floats on massive use of antibiotics. Now farms are producing the antibiotic-resistant superbugs that kill.

This hour, On Point: meat, antibiotics, and us.

-Tom Ashbrook


Rep. Louise Slaughter, Democratic U.S. Representative for New York’s 25th district. (@louiseslaughter)

Listen to Rep. Slaughter’s segment of the interview here.

Mike Apley, veterinarian and researcher at Kansas State University.

Lance Price, professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University.

Stephen McDonnell, founder and CEO of Applegate, a producer of organic and natural meats. (@applegateceo)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration systematically monitor the meat and poultry sold in supermarkets around the country for the presence of disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. These food products are bellwethers that tell us how bad the crisis of antibiotic resistance is getting. And they’re telling us it’s getting worse.”

Wired “It is difficult to imagine a study design that could trace specific animals, their meat, and their eaters in a large group of free-living humans; and unless you have volunteers, as Levy did, the study would push ethical boundaries as well. But having that lack of definition in the middle of the animal-to-human bacterial flow permits uncertainty — which proponents of continued ag antibiotic use exploit. A new study of Danish farmers and their livestock may have ended that uncertainty. It is still retrospective, but its observations — using whole-genome sequencing — are so fine-grained that their tracing of the bacterial traffic seems to me to be difficult to challenge.”

EMBO Molecular Medicine “We investigated the molecular epidemiology of these livestock-associated mecC-MRSA cases using WGS. Phylogenetic analysis across the entire core genome revealed that the isolates from these cases form two distinct, farm-specific clusters comprising near identical isolates from the human case and from livestock on that farm. Within each cluster, the human and animal isolates only differed by a small number of SNPs, which supports the premise of zoonotic transmission. In-depth genome analysis identified a number of candidate genes and mutations that may be associated with host–pathogen interactions and virulence of this emerging MRSA clone.”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • J__o__h__n

    It is amusing that two of the guests are named Slaughter and Price. 

  • Lauren McLaughlin

    The heavy use of antibiotics in meat is terrifying, and is indicative of just how out of control industrial farming has become. It all starts with corn-fed diets (to animals who naturally eat grass) and overcrowded pens — both of which make animals sick, thus requiring medication. Revolting. 

    Industrial farming has turned me into a flexitarian — I now try to purchase high quality meat less often. Meat *should* be expensive — it’s costly to everyone (including the planet) to produce. 


    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003310584181 Nicole Chi-ppada

      I’m the same way Lauren!! Flexitarian!! I love it! I’m tired of wanting to throw up at a meal if I am not the one to personally make it.

  • LinRP

    Are Antibiotics In Our Meat Breeding Superbugs?

    Ya think? 

  • creaker

    Any time you use antibiotics and do it improperly so that any of the targets of the antibiotics survive, you are actively breeding bacteria to be resistant to that antibiotic. Prophylactic use of antibiotics is the most common case of this occurring.

    There are bugs where there are now few choices for treatment because most of the current treatments no longer work. Eventually we’ll have a whole catalog of bacteria that are no longer treatable.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF
  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    33 years ago I saw a BBC documentary on factory farms. I have a very strong stomach but it was truly horrific.

    I gave up eating meat as I could not participate in supporting an industry relying upon such indifference and systematic animal cruelty.

    Now these industries threaten our lives. If animals cannot be raised without antibiotics, they are being raised in an unhealthy and inhumane environment.

    Do you really want to eat such rubbish?

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Slaughter.   A great name to talk about meat.

  • RolloMartins

    Regulating antibiotics in the meat industry (and prescribing correctly) are necessary to curtail superbugs. However, today you can go into a dozen or more countries (Central America, S. America, Mexico…) and buy antibiotics over-the-counter. If you stopped the antibiotics in the meat industry today, it still wouldn’t prevent the mis-use of antibiotics internationally. Doomsayer? Yup.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Thank you so much for this show and thanks to your guest.
    Great discussion.

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      This topic should be revisited. There might also be another hour on the oversubscribing of antibiotics to people which is probably a bigger part of the problem.  

      Either way, this problem will stay in the headlines for some time to come. 

  • L armond

    “Why would the FDA not disclose this evidence?”
    Because it would upset the apple cart of some people’s revenue streams.  So, it is another case of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

  • hellokitty0580

    Its scary to me that we’re pumping our animals full of chemicals and antibiotics because its true: you are what you eat. So basically we’re pumping ourselves full of chemicals and antibiotics. We’re limiting our ability to fight disease and infection by making antibiotics more ubiquitous in all of our foods. And I also believe this is inhumane to our animals- what we make them eat, where we house them, and all the chemicals we force them to ingest for human “safety”.

    Food is no longer food- its over-processed, manufactured product that comes from farther away than most people travel on a daily basis. And we wonder why Americans are obese, sick, and depressed.

    • hellokitty0580

       Also, just the terms “factory farming” and “industrial farming” sound wrong. Its not just the antibiotics that are bad- it the “cleansing” process that uses ammonia to kill bacteria, its the way the animals are treated, its cross-contamination that happens when the meat is cut and processed, and its the large-scale farms that are bad for the environment and bad for small, community farmers (a career path that is basically going extinct). Its just plain wrong and antithetical to life. Is this the way we want to eat? Is this the way we want to live?

    • http://profiles.google.com/jmorrisson Jane Morrisson

      Do we know that these chemicals are safe?  No! These additives may well be contributing to our obesity problem, autism, and even alzheimers.

  • RolloMartins

    Oh, so we just need Boehner to put this bill up for a vote…LOL.

  • SpringHill44

    We should all call the USDA and report that there are unwanted and dangerous antibiotics in our meat. From the FDA website:

    “IF the problem involves meat or poultry, which are regulated by the U.S.
    Department of Agriculture, call the USDA hotline at 1-800-535-4555.”  — Pass it on!

  • Melanie Wilson

    Factory farming equals a kind of animal holocaust, and antiobiotic resistance is just one fallout from it. You go, Rep. Slaughter.

  • nj_v2

    Another manifestation of the corporatization of Amerika.

    Whatever makes a profit.

    Screw anything else.

  • SouthShore1

    Meat sold as “natural” often says “No antibiotics added.” Does that mean none added in the lifetime of the animal or just that none was added to the post-slaughter meat? And what does “No antibiotics added” mean in eggs?

    • Arnesha Horton

      I just asked someone that the other day. I am almost positive that it means after slaughter. If not- then why use “added”?

  • http://profiles.google.com/jmorrisson Jane Morrisson

    Tom, you’re talking as if this is a question. No, it is entirely true that feeding antibiotics to our meat animals is causing this problem. It has to stop, and as soon as possible.

    • http://www.facebook.com/drpmeade Paul S Meade

      Tom hasn’t hit his stride yet; and you are right-this isn’t a question, it’s a reality. I’m a physician (pathologist) at a small hospital in Western New York (Louise Slaughter is my congressperson, thank goodness) and we see the results of this on an ever increasing basis.

      Nobody has mentioned the increasing problem of community acquired Clostridium dificile yet…

  • AC

    wasn’t there some tension between american cattleman and isreal because of the increase in demand for kosher/halal meat that they export? will it continue or get worse?
    i have to admit, i don’t buy my dog treats from China because i was told that was the reason so many dogs died from their snacks – they are overdosing their chickens on antibiotics dog’s kidney’s couldn’t handle, is that true?

  • andreawilder

    Just echoing a comment from down below, what does it mean
    when meat I buy says “NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER.”
    Is this accurate?

  • AC

    i’m glad i’m mostly vegetarian. the occasional bacon cheeseburger at a summer bbq when the smell is stronger than i am. or fish. are fish included in this trend?

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzanne.sheldon.50 Suzanne Sheldon

    Karma. If you think it’s okay to kill animals and eat them, and especially if you condone farms that raise the animals in cruel, sometimes horrific ways, then I have no sympathy. People that emphatically state that they don’t want to know of the abuse in those farms, because they don’t want to think about it when they enjoy their steaks, fried chicken, or foie gras, are irresponsible and cruel themselves. Think of the meat that gets wasted in this country and all of the people that think it’s okay. These people think animals are here on earth for our use and abuse. Unfortunately the super bugs will also affect those of us that respect all life and are completely against any exploitation of any animal ever. Now the rest of the people are to be alarmed that they may be hurt by massive amounts of antibiotics pumped into these poor animals. Know this, each and every animal fought to stay alive in the end. Many times these animals die a slow, violent and painful death. But to Tom and others that are worried about their own skin, and can’t be bothered with what these animals go through in order to keep your beloved meat on your plates, good luck. Many people are still demanding antibiotics for their colds, and their doctors, in many cases, are still writing the prescriptions for them. 

  • creaker

    “growth promotion” = how to prevent animals from getting as sick in abysmal conditions.

  • JobExperience

    If you read the EMBO Molecular Medicine excerpt seriously you suspect they  are suggesting that the slaughterhouse bacteriosphere extends into our hospitals and nursing homes (MRSA). The generic term is sepsis, and I’m a victim of systemic encysted sepsis. Generally, I’m rotting. It’s incurable and is treated with ever stronger antibiotics. The beach and pool are becoming a strong vector for contracting sepsis/MRSA. I got it in physical therapy following an injury. If you get a blistering spreading lesion anywhere on your body after likely exposure seek treatment immediately. If you wait a week you’ll be a rotten tomato like me. Demand immediate cultures and treatment in a strong confident voice.
    Chlorine bleach may become your best friend.

    If you have any social conscience or common sense you’ll quit eating all meat. Veganism: It’s not only for sensitive people any more.

  • Ferngold McLeod

    Vegan family here. We never use antibiotics, but might like the option in event of some extreme illness. Most likely, even then, our own methods would work better, but still – good to have options.

    Rather, we support our immune systems through eating whole, fresh foods, as much of it raw as possible. We also garden and drink herbal teas and take herbal tinctures as needed. We have a naturopath, not an MD, and we are careful about vaccines, which, incidentally, are on a path to the same type of resistance crisis that antibiotics have.

    Our family enjoys supreme health because of all this, and our lifestyle IS our health insurance.  Wish we could afford major medical, but too many people who are ignorant and careless about their health (“Eh, gonna die of something anyway!”), and a profiteering health care/insurance industry, have made the cost of health insurance ridiculous. We would also use a tax-advantaged “healthcare savings account”, but HSAs are only available to people who buy into the overpriced, corrupt health insurance, which mostly doesn’t even cover the type of care our family believes in.

  • realedreform

    I wonder how many people will realize the connection between today’s first On Point hour (with David Stockman) and this one?
    Fiat money causing cattle producers to use antibiotics on healthy
    animals to get more meat out of them to make up for the depreciating
    dollar. Just one example of how fiat paper money destroys civilization.

    • J__o__h__n

      Is this the latest name from Leather Dave from Conn? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.weiskel Tim Weiskel

    Its too bad that your most convincing, informed and impressive callers have their lines cut off.  Is this a coincidence?

    The industry apologist you have on as an “expert” is a little silly.  He should take a couple of
    hours our and study the issue about which he mouths so glibly the
    industry line.  Sit down, buddy, and watch this recent documentary,

    A River of Waste,



    BBC News – Antibiotic resistance ‘big threat to health’


    Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America from Monsanto to Wal-Mart

    Big Farming + Big Pharma = Huge Problem — life-threating problem on a global scale.

  • zollnervt

    Working in a hospital lab in 1982, my boss, the head of infectious diseases there, made it clear to us that overuse of antibiotics in agriculture was creating this public health hazard of antibiotic-resistant bacteria he was gravely concerned about.  We have been aware of this issue for decades, but corporate profits have prevented any reform.  I see no reason to hope for change here until there is change in how we finance political campaigns…

  • Ferngold McLeod

    That is a terrible story! Have you considered approaching a naturopath, or even a qualified practitioner experienced in healing with raw, living foods?  Wheatgrass juice is one of the strongest all-natural anti-septic remedies out there, and has helped thousands of people to heal many serious illnesses which the MDs usually say are terminal. You CAN heal by supporting the natural systems of your body!

    • JobExperience

      No, I’m about 5 posts down, not deleted yet.
      I’m under the care of my friend Gary Null, but am not doing well. My insurance, now gone, did not cover alternative practitioners.

  • creaker

    On an individual level, eating no meat/as little meat as possible is not a bad course of action. And eating better raised meat when you do. You may not change practices, but you will change what you expose yourself to and what you put in your body.

  • brettearle

    If there was one time that Tom Ashbrook should have told a caller to call back–RE: that last caller, who supplies Deerfield Academy–that was the time.

    Maybe the technology wasn’t there to give the caller some sort of inside number, instantaneously.

    But SOMEONE has to get that guy back on the air.

    He reminded me of one of my heroes, Mary Schiavo, from the FAA scandals, exposed through Value Jet.

    This guy is, quite possibly, the Mary Schiavo of the `Feed Industry’.

  • Steve_the_Repoman

    Has the parallel organic foods regulation in the US been coopted by the Federal Government and agribusiness, in some cases defeating the very farmers who started the movement toward more wholesome food?

    My answer would be yes.

    To my knowledge, the argument for and against the use of antibiotics in meat and feed has been going on for the better part of thirty years.

    The best answer I have come up with is know your local farmer.

  • twenty_niner

    Good hour today – it looks as if the theme is: end the Pollyanna nonsense and start saying it as it is.

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      What’s that saying?  “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1424976479 Allen Horner

    Between antibiotics and growth hormones, it’s a wonder we still consider milk as being good for kids. The Lewis Farm owner hits the nail right on the head. Why the heck our federal government doesn’t concentrate on this deadly epidemic rather than gun control boggles the mind!

    • Steve_the_Repoman

      Investigate the rGBH labeling wars for milk.

      The last thing the US regulatory agencies or agribusiness wants is food that is honestly labeled allowing consumers to make an informed choice.

    • John Miller

      EVERYONE should read “Milk Money, Cash, Cows and the Death of the American Dairy Farm” by Kirk Kardashian.

  • Steve_the_Repoman

    Also, please be careful of language.

    “Naturally Raised” as defined by US regulatory agencies and agribusiness may not hold the meaning that you think it does.

  • Scott B

    The reason the workers on factory pig farms have to shower, and why the “barns” are filtered so much, is because the pig have NO immune system.

  • Scott B

    Of course factory farms are going to be able to say they are stopping antibiotics use for growth purposes, when they can claim it’s all for “health” and get the growth benefit anyway.

  • AC

    i thought in general, we were trending towards microfungus(es/fungi?) to replace animal protein because it takes too much resources to raise an animal that feeds too few & the ever-growing population will take us in this direction.
    i could swear i’ve seen articles about bugs/etc increasing in future diets….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Duncan-Brown/100000783993065 Duncan Brown

    Stop eating meat.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jen.godfrey Jennifer Godfrey

    I work at the other great breeding ground of resistant bacteria, the long-term acute care hospital (LTAC). As a nurse, I often worry about the ethical concerns of treating patients with chronic infections with antibiotics knowing that we may be creating more resistant superbugs. In our case, we are using these drugs to prolong lives, and the value for human life trumps concerns of microbiology. Using these medicines prophylactically to mass produce meat less expensively, and less humanely, is unconscionable. It is clearly unethical, and should be illegal.

  • Scott B

    There’s cross-medication from the chicken factory farm waste and byproducts ending up in cattle feed, and vice versa.  After the mad cow outbreak the law of the land says you can’t use cow product to fee cows (so no chicken byproduct in chicken feed, and so on), but it’s perfectly fine to use the feathers, used nesting material and chicken parts to make cattle feed, and using cattle byproducts to feed chicken and other farm animals.  All manner of things, like antibiotics and bacteria, end up in the feed. Want to know how bug jump species? There’s part of the reason right there.

    • JobExperience

       Fish eat chicken poop. Cows eat hog poop. Chickens eat any kind of poop. Hogs eat municiple sludge.
      Why is this a surprise since TV is a poop stream?

      • Scott B

         The problem is that all that poop is full of various bacteria and drugs, so it’s an endless cycle of feeding farmed animals thing they most likely wouldn’t be eating. It’s one thing when a catfish in a pond eats some chicken poop from Mr Jone’s chickens out looking for worm on the shore of the pond. It’s another when farm raised catfish are being fed the ground up offal and byproducts of various animals from a factory farm as “fish food pellets”.

  • JBK007

    Regardless of consumer practices, the overuse/abuse of antibiotics in the food production industry is creating drug-resistant bugs that will ultimately effect organic food eaters, as these bugs will be ever-present.

    The other huge problem contributing to anti-microbial resistance in the world is caused by people not finishing their course of anitbiotics once they start to feel better, requiring much-needed awareness raising on this issue……

    • JobExperience

       And by flushing them down the loo into the water supply

      • NrthOfTheBorder

        Good point.  I’m forever floored at how many people can’t follow simple instructions.  And this when there’s no undue stress or panic. 

  • adiggins

    Go Rep. Slaughter!  Like Lauren I too am a flexitarian.  In every way factory farms just seem horrific and wrong.  Factory farm conditions are unnatural, artificial and inhumane in highly overcrowded housing & corn feed.  These factories create dangerous quantities of toxic liquid & solid waste that is not disposed of in small scale, gradual ways that could otherwise benefit the environment.  What a shame! 

    Broad spectrum antibiotics kill the good bugs that make us (and livestock) healthy, so livestock feed use is killing beneficial bugs and creating monster bugs.  Sunshine is a great disinfectant.  Exercise, natural diet and happiness all boost immunity, so give the animals those instead.  It’s the least we could do before slaughtering them!

    Also, most of the American public doesn’t understand, respect or care about science.  American agriculture is brawny but being so monolithic and exclusively bottom line profit-driven is short-sighted, unhealthy, unkind and stupid.

  • Scott B

    Let’s not forget that Monsanto, and the like, don’t have to label anything about what went into the meat, be it antibiotics or if it’s a GMO-thing. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/jparitte Jackie Paritte

      The FDA and scientists have established withdrawal times for all medications used in food animals. They know that if you give a beef steer a dose of Draxxin, in 18 days there will be no detectable antibiotic residue in meat, and they are not allowed to slaughter an animal before that 18 days is up.  Check out this website if you want to know the hard work people do to make food safe.  http://www.farad.org/

      • Scott B

         That just one variety, and there’s a difference between “detectable” and “allowable” the latter often being what they’re “detecting” – If it falls under allowable limits, it’s “undetectable.

  • creaker

    We’ll move to a less antibiotic system regardless, eventually.

    Meat raisers won’t buy and use antibiotics that are no longer effective.

    • Tyranipocrit

      why do you think so?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.weiskel Tim Weiskel

    Good people caught in a corrupted system…
    Time to change the structure of the food/pharma/disease corporate nexus. Even Katie Couric seemed to understand this three years ago:
    See her piece: “Antibiotics and Food Supply”

  • adiggins

    Good topic, Tom.  Thank you for bring it to the public!

  • John McGrath

    So we outlaw antibiotics in feed,  how do we as a society deal with the increase in food borne infections and protect responsible producers from a liability perspective?  If you consider the peanut plant that went out of business, you can understand why food producers want antibiotics in their products.  A few infections and the law suits put you out of business.  How do we protect producers knowing that increased infections will be a major business risk based on the current U.S. tort system. 

    • brettearle

       Everyone becomes Vegans.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000463312955 Jonathan Hamrick

        Only if it’s organic.  If they can’t ingest or inhale the stuff they spray on my food, I probably shouldn’t eat the food.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jparitte Jackie Paritte

          A non-organic vegan is better than a carnivore.  So no, not only if it’s organic. Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jparitte Jackie Paritte

      The peanut Salmonella was due to poor storage conditions at the plant, not high concentrations of animal contaminants.  Most outbreaks can be traced back to poor human behavior, we just use overuse of antibiotics in food animals as a scapegoat.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000463312955 Jonathan Hamrick

      You have a good point, we need to find a way to protect the people that produce our food in natural ways from frivolous lawsuits.  I don’t recall the issue you’re referencing, can you post a link?  I want to look in to this some more.  The peanuts would be more of a GMO issue I believe.  They don’t require antibiotics that I know of.  Some GMO crop studies have actually shown lower yields than organic crops.  You may have less issues along the way, but you’re paying more for the seed and getting less back in the end. (in some cases)

      The overall issue with daily antibiotics is, like pesticides and herbicides, the organisms they are supposed to kill can grow a resistance if exposed to it over long periods.  I know farmers have a lot on their plate, and giving them antibiotics is preventing the headache of sick cattle.  Even if it doesn’t make US sick, what are they going to do when the cows all get sick with a bug their antibiotic doesn’t fix anymore?  It’s a slippery slope they’re playing on.

    • JobExperience

      Peter Pan reopened after a thorough cleaning.

    • mozartman

      How about eating meat sparingly as humans did for tens of thousands of years?  Eat the grains instead of stuffing them into animals.  Cook the meat well and don’t eat it raw or half cooked.  I know, the gourmets all scream, but if they want to take the risk, they can do so. 

    • Eliza_Bee

      It sounds like you think anti-biotics in feed results in fewer food borne infections.  I don’t think this is correct.

      I think the peanut incident you’re talking about was a fungus that grew on the peanuts, perhaps when they were in storage.  This has nothing to do with anti-biotics in feed.

  • AC

    can anyone tell me whether fish are also part of this trend? i eat a lot of fish……

    • JobExperience

       More mercury is in fish all the time and some may give you radioisotopes (Fukishima). Most farmed fish receive food dosed antibiotics, and must, because they are raised in sewers. The higher on the predator chain you eat the more contaminants you get.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jparitte Jackie Paritte

    There wouldn’t be CAFOs if there weren’t a demand for animal products.  And unless you are eating less than 4 oz. of meat a day, you are part of the demand.  Antibiotics are used for a reason, and veterinarians are more aware of antimicrobial resistance issues than human physicians.  You might consider that heavy antimicrobial use and stocking density on cattle operations is similar to the densities of people found in schools or hospitals. And overmedication of people is more likely to produce resistance that directly affects people than the use of antimicrobials in food animals.  MRSA didn’t come from cows, it came from hospitals.

  • phred55

    This discussion is great but is not “on point”. We need to look at why the farmers need to use antibiotics. If there were fewer people then the need to mass produce so much food would not be there and hence then high output operations would not exist either.
    Also there is great incentive for physicians to give anbx to patients just to make them “happy”. Many HMO’s link physician compensation to patient satisfaction. This leads to over prescribing of anbx’s.

  • terry7

    Tom, you already had a program on the negative consequences of the overuse of antibiotics in humans.  Your guest, Dr. Martin Blazer of NYU,  pointed out many such negative consequences, among them the possible link between administration of antibiotics to young children and childhood obesity.  This raises the question of how much antibiotic residue remains in the meat which we eat.  Some research indicates that, even after cooking, antibiotics persist.  Given the alarming epidemic of obesity in this country, the possible link between obesity and antibiotics needs to receive broader public attention. You might consider rebroadcasting your program with Dr. Blazer in the near future to draw these two issues together.

    One point to keep in mind: When a person diets, the fat cells decrease in size, not number.  Any subsequent excess calories are quickly stored in the waiting cells, which results in a rapid regaining of the lost weight. This means that an overweight child has a very hard time keeping his weight down.  This adds urgency to the mission of preventing childhood obesity – by all means, including limiting the exposure of children to antibiotics.


  • http://sblewis.com Sandy Lewis

    Tom Ashbrook….

    Kindly call….

    518 963 4206 – for Sandy Lewis, please…

    Warm regards,


    • http://twitter.com/RotatingMyCrops Mom Mum Mommy Mama

      Sandy, I was so bummed that you were cut off! Thank you so much for your care and concern!!

  • gossipy

    Jane Morrisson and all, don’t forget cancer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504736999 Monica Lee Hayes

    There’s a simple solution without having to wait for the system to respond.
    STOP EATING MEAT! Even if it weren’t laced with antibiotics meat would still be an unhealthy choice both for the human organism and for the environment.  Going vegetarian is so easy these days. Just do it!

    • HT Bhard

       Maybe not the best solution. Grassland REQUIRES grazing. Industrial farming – sure, bad.

  • Eliza_Bee

    Rep. Slaughter’s constituents are lucky to have her.  If only we had more legislators with her smarts, her energy, and her willingness to speak out.

    My dog was recently treated for MSRP (the version of anti-biotic resistant bacteria that animals tend to get).  It was a battle (daily sprayings with bleach solution and multiple baths per week), but fortunately it is under control.  I’ve been told it’s something that will probably always be with her.  My heart goes out to anyone who is dealing with an anti-biotic resistant infection.  Cheap meat is not worth it!!

  • HT Bhard

    Southerners – the only hope for us is to migrate to the north and get into congress in order to have our voices heard! You go Louise Slaughter! Love you.

    • Tyranipocrit

       why?  What are trying to say?

      • HT Bhard

         In many parts of the South, contradiction of prevailing views is fine to voice on intimate micro levels among an intimate group of friends or a slightly larger circle. But on the macro level like with ‘campaigns’ or letters to the editor, this is frowned on or just eyerolled at. It’s a personal place, where things that matter are best conducted at that relationship level. We often don’t take kindly to being contradicted in an impersonal way. This has good and bad outcomes obviously. Anyone with a different opinion can be effectively silenced; it’s hard to cultivate alternative viewpoints. What’s interesting to see are the primarily women who have moved from their southern environs northward, into Congress. These are women with quite definite views that perhaps were not accommodated in the South.

        • Tyranipocrit

           I see. thank you for your reply.  It is very interesting.  it seems to me democracy would have a hard time functioning under such circumstances–that could easily turn into a kind of tyranny. 

          If a person or group doenst like hte look of someone (skin color, race, dress, appearence, etc) they can easily be ostracized, scorned, scapegoated, ignored, degraded…ganged up on.

          • HT Bhard

             Let me QUICKLY add to that list the large number of African Americans who recently or a while ago migrated south to north! Including among them, men and women.

          • HT Bhard

             Tyranipocrit, your comment is both true and untrue of many social dynamics in the south. Speaking as a white southerner, the level of not just tolerance but a deep-hearted sense of caring outsiders might witness southerners having for someone ‘different’ (say, severely disabled) might (or might not) be surprising. This extends to all manner of differentness. The problem comes when an individual or a group challenges the way of doing things in a fundamental way. Huge topic, and not really the time or the place.

  • hum_dinger

    u use antibiotics b/c many of these creatures have been exposed to human sewage used as fertilizer. google sewage sludge. google zoonosis

  • jscottanderson

    This is as important an issue as one can find today.  Just imagine living in the time before antibiotics and watching your children die from a bacterial infection because nothing works.

  • jscottanderson

    This veterinarian is quibbling.  I’m listening and hearing something like I’d expect to hear from an industry spokesman.

  • jscottanderson

    Yessss.   A scientist.  “Give us data.”

  • Tyranipocrit

    when Tom says there is a lot of “debate” about this he deliberatly implies there is doubt, the facts aren’t there–he suggests skepticism.  Its just not honest.  It is a fact.

    Commercial farmers ar enot concerned.  They dont care.  Profit is everything.  Health is nothing to them.  We need to prohibit large commercial farms and get back to organic, small farms and gardens and city gardens and roof top gardens and barge gardens, and wall gardens, hanging gardens…clean the air and eat healhier all at the same time–and improve psychjolical health with aesthetic atmosphere.   The crisis in the system is capitalism.

  • http://twitter.com/RotatingMyCrops Mom Mum Mommy Mama

    Thank you, Rep. Slaughter, for your input and determination to make our world safer. I wish we could have heard more from Sandy Lewis. A huge thank you to him and the others who shared their concern for a healthy way of farming.

    The similarity between pro-antibiotic people and anti-gun restriction people is interesting.Their argument for not tracking antibiotic use in farm animals is that it’s too much work? Too much data?! Like saying restricting magazine size wouldn’t do anything to reduce gun deaths? Please. It’s L A Z Y and it’s all about $$$$$$. Shame, shame.

  • NrthOfTheBorder

    In Bill Bryson’s book “A Short History of Nearly Everything” there’s a chapter on the use of lead in gasoline, paint – and toothpaste etc etc etc.  I mention this as it is a near perfect metaphor on the abuse of antibiotics.

    How is it that we know something is wrong – or at least We the People know this and yet, nothing is done – or the pace of corrective regulation is glacial? 

    Look no further than the lobbyists cruising the halls of Congress doling out campaign contributions far in excess of what you’ll ever  give. 

  • Patrick

    Rep Slaughter touts her scientific qualifications and then tells us that Staph causes colds and that ear infections might be untreatable because of the food supply.  It is really hard to take her seriously sometimes.

    • HT Bhard

       I’m not so sure I disagree with her. Bacteria can figure out ways to do more damage to the host and evade attack by antibiotics and immunological systems, passing that information along to bacteria of the same or different type. Then it can jump from an animal to a human and eventually it can go human to human. Isn’t this the principle of the superbug? What’s wrong with that? You didn’t detail what you thought the problem was in her reasoning, so I’m asking.

      • Patrick

        As with Eliza above, there is zero evidence that ear infections become resistant to antibiotics as a consequence of antibiotic use in animal feed. There is overwhelming evidence and unanimous agreement that it is caused by the overprescribing of antibiotics in pediatric medicine. Wisely, the treatment guidelines are changing and resistance is declining. You are right that we can be surprised by what might happen microbiologically, but epidemiology is a mature and reliable science too that tells what actually does happen.

        • HT Bhard

           Ok, fair enough. Something about the phrase ‘a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous’ is about to apply to me, here, but let me ask you then: what are these disease that the farmers are getting from their animals if not staphylcoccus pneumonia? Or others? (Actually you mentioned strep.) If not staph or strep, then what? Because they are getting something from the animals. And – again the danger of a little bit of knowledge here! – I am not convinced it cannot be strep or staph.

        • Eliza_Bee

          Google tells me that strep throat is caused by Group A Streptococcus, and the usual antibiotics used to treat it are penicillin or amoxicillin.  These antibiotics are in the group that Staphylococcus aureaus (MRSA) is resistant to.  

          Are you saying that these antibiotics cannot become ineffective
          against Streptococcus as they did with Staphylococcus?  If, so I’d
          like to know why this is.

          I don’t think anyone claimed strep throat is acquired from foods–not sure why you threw that in.


          • Patrick

            She mentions at 9:08 that if we don’t stop feeding antibiotics to animals, we might “reach a point where strep throat could be a fatal disease”.  I know people get excited on the radio but there is zero evidence supporting this as a possible consequence of farming practices. There’s plenty more. She states that there are 18 K deaths from runaway infections – more than AIDS. This number relates to hospital-acquired staph infections.  She mentions the CDC (which does not stand for the Communicable Disease Center) has highlighted the NIH CRE infections.  We know these emerged in southeast asia and are becoming a major problem globally.  This is a genuine catastrophe in the making.  Zero evidence for a food animal source  - carbapenems are not used in food animals. There’s more if you care.  She doesn’t understand what in the FDA approach is “voluntary”.  It is not a call to voluntarily reduce use.  It is a call to pharmas to change their label to remove growth promotion claims within 3 years on their own before they are forced to (Apley refers to this).  She says when asked why the FDA does not disclose all the use data, “I wish I knew”.  She should – Congress forbids FDA to do so by law.  

            We have a problem and we need to address it better and faster. I don’t think she is helping focus the debate.

          • HT Bhard

             Maybe, maybe not. But you say “zero evidence for a food animal source.” Ok, so we were talking about staph and strep, but what about – mad cow disease? Wasn’t that caused by sheep remains (containing TSE) being in cattle feed?

          • Patrick

            This is a different topic and unrelated to antibiotic use, but you are right.  There is a feed ban in place (since 1997) to try to prevent this. So far working quite well I understand.

          • Eliza_Bee

            I think what Rep. Slaughter meant is we know that
            bacteria can acquire resistance to antibiotics in animals, and that resistant
            bug can then pass to humans.  She
            was saying that the future, antibiotic resistance could develop by this means
            in more types of bacteria that cause human illness, including very common


            That antibiotics in animal feed is one of multiple causes  of the development of resistant bacteria does not negate its importance.  Obviously, this problem needs to be
            attacked on multiple fronts.


            At any rate, I appreciate your thoughtful reply.  

          • Patrick

            I would just add that epidemiology is a mature and pretty reliable science. It can keep us from misallocating resources and chasing phantoms. And the facts can protect us from a sentimental “solution”. I like Rep Slaughter, but I don’t think the Danish pigs are actually happier as she said.

          • HT Bhard

             Patrick – what diseases were they referencing, then, that they said jumped from animal to farmer?

          • Patrick

            Dr. Price showed that some MRSA move from farm animals to farmers and their families. This has been known for 5-6 years. CDC, USDA, WHO and the EU recognizezoonotic MRSA as an “occupational hazard” but not a major means of spread compared with hospital acquired infections.  The big ones are Salmonella and Campylobacter.  Data are gatheringthat extra-intestinalE. coli is another, as Dr. Price mentioned. These three are major concerns.

    • Eliza_Bee

      Patrick, I also noticed the remark about staph and colds.  I googled and found the following:

      “Staphylococci are known to be capable of setting up disease process of the upper respiratory tract and sinuses varying in degree from a slight inflammation of the mucous membrane to a true pneumonia.”

      Sounds like a cold to me.  By the way this is from a scholarly article published in 1923.  See


      To add to what HT Bhard said, here’s a brief article about how using antibiotics in animal feed creates superbugs: 


      • Patrick

        The term “cold” refers to upper respiratory infection caused by rhinoviruses. Staph may cause bacteria pneumonia, and this has long been a concern as a possible consequence of severe viral pneumonias leading, and this has lead to one of the greatest misuses of antibiotics in medicine. There is no epidemiological evidence that Staph pneumonia is a zoonotic disease. Same for rhinoviruses, and ear infections and venereal infections, etc.

  • Kenneth Rubenstein

    You have to wonder why the Danes could move on this issue, and we seem to be stuck. The antibiotic-resistant bug problem is spinning out of control, and we seem to be averse to moving it up to the top of the list. 

    Furthermore, the discussion never turned to the problem of pharmaceutical companies, who have grown so large through mergers and acquisitions, that they can no longer afford to develop relatively low-profit antibiotics. Without them, there won’t be any new drugs. We’ve made a total mess, and we’re treating it as just one more problem on the list. Shameful.

    • Johannes

      Ah Danmark! No you dont have to wonder. How did we do it? Easy there are only 5.5 million of us and 90% are ethnically Danish. And we all work. We think alike. Easy votes.

  • http://twitter.com/cicoree Joanna Margueritte

    Mr Ashbrook, I wish you would have dared to challenge the underlying assumptions that animals are “products” and farming an “industry”. This discussion is of course a perfect example of the horrifying results of our treatment of farm animals, but neither you nor any of these guests seemed to have even for a moment considered the following basic truths:
    1. Animals are not products or things.
    2. They are living creatures who can feel pain, who can learn learn, love and care for each other and for humans.
    3. Factory farming is an absolute aberration and we are cruel to take
    part in it in ANY way, and last but not least…
    4. Nobody actually NEEDS meat to survive in the first place. Nobody.

    Thank you. I am a big admirer and fan of your show. Usually.

  • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

    The reason antibiotic stuffed animals are more profitable is that it allows swinish mega-producers to pack them into tiny cages unable to even turn around, incredibly unhealthy conditions which of course cause terrible infections. How healthy can any animal be who can’t move.

    Apley is obviously a lobbiest- his “funding” is no doubt 100% from the big ag cos. He was slick, like Eckhart in “Thank You for Smoking”- at one point he changed the %age subject completely in disputing the 80% antibiotics go to animals #.

    Only the US and 3rd world countries like China misuse AB’s so promiscuously- the killer diseases that will take out 30-50% of the world are coming out of China cause they live next to their chickens… but that could change any day. The 1918 Great Epidemic (see exc NYT guy’s book of that name) came out of a Ft. in Kansas and killed 100 mil, 5% of the world then.

    For these pigs extra 10-20% profit, hundreds of millions will probably die.

  • TJPhoto40

    An excellent discussion on this important topic, with information that should be a wake-up call for most of us.  I thought it was interesting that Mike Apley sounded so much like a shill for the meat producers in his early comments, but by the end of the show his voice and message seemed to change.  He sounded positively weary of the deception and admitted the seriousness of the problem with no more of the industry mouthpiece evasions and double-talk.  

    I knew much of this from previous articles and discussions, but this show introduced new information as well as reinforcing the most critical facts of the issue.  Thanks for presenting such a thought-provoding show.  

Aug 28, 2014
Photos surround the casket of Michael Brown before the start of his funeral at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014.  (AP)

The message that will last out of Ferguson with New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb.

Aug 28, 2014
Some of the hundreds of earthquake damaged wine barrels cover and toppled a pair of forklifts at the Kieu Hoang Winery, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A powerful earthquake that struck the heart of California's wine country caught many people sound asleep, sending dressers, mirrors and pictures crashing down around them and toppling wine bottles in vineyards around the region. (AP)

Drought in California, earthquake in Napa. We look at broken bottles and the health of the American wine industry.

Aug 27, 2014
The cast of the new ABC comedy, "Black-ish." (Courtesy ABC)

This week the Emmys celebrate the best in television. We’ll look at what’s ahead for the Fall TV season.

Aug 27, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, as Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, center, looks at them, prior to their talks after after posing for a photo in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP)

Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s leader meet. We’ll look at Russia and the high voltage chess game over Ukraine. Plus, we look at potential US military strikes in Syria and Iraq.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment
Why Facebook And Twitter Had Different Priorities This Week
Friday, Aug 22, 2014

There’s no hidden agenda to the difference between most people’s Facebook and Twitter feeds this week. Just a hidden type of emotional content and case use. Digiday’s John McDermott explains.

More »
1 Comment