Yesterday the World Health Organization issued a landmark 256 page assessment of the antibiotic resistant bacteria that now roam the globe. The upshot, according to Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security:
Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill
As the report notes, “…these drugs have been extensively misused in both humans and food-producing animals in ways that favor the selection and spread of resistant bacteria.”
We don’t know for sure, but this sort of antibiotic misuse may be an underlying cause of the antibiotic resistance we’re seeing in the Salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms — an outbreak that is still afflicting chicken eaters here in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly two-thirds of the Salmonella sampled from afflicted patients tested resistant to one or more antibiotics. CDC’s update on April 9 indicates that the outbreak is still going more than a year after its official start date in March 2013.
Here’s a recent infographic summarizing the situation (yes, NRDC officially gives you permission to share, link or re-post as you like. Click on it for a larger version). Get more facts about the Foster Farms outbreak here.
The introduction of antibiotics dealt a serious blow to the bacteria that attacks our bodies. But it wasn’t a deadly one. And different forms of bacteria have spent the last few decades evolving. Some of these “superbugs” are now totally resistant to antibiotics, and they are basically teaching other bacteria how to resist them as well.
Bacteria have been training at this for a long, long time. I think when a lot of people took antibiotics in the ’50s and ’60s, there was a lot of talk then about “miracle drugs” and “wonder drugs” … Had we basically pushed back those evolutionary forces? Had we essentially found a way to avoid infectious disease? Well, what we’re seeing is this evolutionary process in bacteria. It’s relentless, and what happened here was [that] bacteria learned to basically teach each other to swap these enzymes and help each other learn how to beat back our best antibiotics; our last-resort antibiotics didn’t work…
70-80 percent of all antibiotics produced — certainly more than half, at a minimum — are in fact used in farm animals to get them to market quicker and bigger. As it also turns out, this continual, low-level use is a perfect way to breed resistant strains, which can then find their way into humans.
Here’s a great overview of the problem from Fresh Air’s Terry Gross and journalist David Hoffman: Antibiotics Can’t Keep Up With Nightmare Superbugs. “In the period before World War II … people that got infections, they had to cut it out. They had to cut off limbs, cut off toes, because there weren’t antibiotics. And oftentimes, when people talk about the fact that we might have to go back to a pre-antibiotic age, that’s what they mean — that a simple scrape on the playground could be fatal.”
Regarding that “Stanford Study”, the good people at Austin’s Sustainable Food Center writes to say..
On September 3, 2012 the New York Times published an article about a Stanford University study that allegedly dispels the nutritional advantages of organic food. The response from the sustainable agriculture community regarding this study has been tremendous. Below we have provided links to articles we feel provide the best response to the claims made by this study.
This is creating superbugs on the farm and humans are exposed in a number of ways, including when we handle or eat undercooked meat. Our life-saving drugs are becoming less effective when we really need them. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has refused to take meaningful action to restrict the use of unnecessary antibiotics in livestock production.
The “natural” label has nothing to do with how an animal was raised. The USDA requires only that no coloring or artificial ingredients are added to the final meat or poultry product and that it be “minimally processed” (although salt water can be added).
“Natural” meat or poultry products can definitely be given antibiotics in their feed or water while being raised—and can also be raised in confined spaces with thousands of other animals, given hormones and other drugs, fed animal by-products and subjected to many other unnatural practices.
Consumers should beware of several labels that are unapproved by the USDA, such as “antibiotic-free” and “no antibiotic residues”, that could mislead them to think a product was raised without any antibiotics, when in fact that may not be the case. –Consumer’s Union
If you choose to eat meat, please be a conscientious consumer. The best sources of clean, healthy animal products are generally those that are organic, grass-fed, often sold at farmers’ markets or CSA-style meat-shares (visit Eatwild, LocalHarvest or Real Time Farms to find resources in your area).
Today’s post isn’t so much about any particular dish (although this salad was really good) as it is a reminder to myself of why I choose to eat clean, healthy nourishing food.
Earlier today I ate a cheeseburger & fries with the guys at a local joint. While the food tasted OK at the time, I knew I was in trouble less than an hour later when the industrial CAFO burger & potatoes fried in God-knows-what kind of unnatural hydrogenated oil together felt like a greasy, soggy bowling ball in my gut. Back at work, I resisted the urge to crawl under my desk & sleep it off.
It is readily apparent why America is so sick.
At home this evening, I knew I needed to make up for the nutritionally empty & otherwise damaging lunch, so I gathered up what I could from the garden, pantry and fridge and made this Antidote Dinner Salad..
Kamut pasta, raw virgin olive oil, raw and pickled peppers, olives, scallions, Lupini beans, avocado, anchovies, fresh basil and oregano, tomatoes, watercress, pea shoots, prosciutto, white balsamic and lots of coarse sea salt and freshly-ground pepper.
I swear I felt completely restored almost immediately!