Feeding our Livestock Antibiotics Can Cause Antibiotic Drug Resistance

A PBS Frontline special explored the safety of our meat.

  • Antibiotics are given to animals in small doses to enhance weight gain by as much as 3%.
  • There are an estimated 17 million pounds of antibiotics used for this purpose each year in the USA.
  • Many countries in the European Union and Canada have banned the use of antibiotics for this purpose. It is still legal in the USA.
  • People who developed Cipro-resistant bacteria had acquired them by eating pork that were contaminated with salmonella.

In a notable salmonella epidemic from pork:

  • 192 people were infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella from five states. 30 were hospitalized.
  • Salmonella was multidrug resistant including resistance to ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, and tetracycline.

There are antibiotic resistant strains of salmonella in chickens.

And antibiotic resistant strains of E.Coli. E. Coli is often found in contaminated red meats.


The Centers for Safety in the Public Interest notes:

  • Food items most likely associated with antibiotic resistant pathogens include dairy products, ground beef, and poultry.
  • Salmonella was the most common cause of antibiotic‐resistant outbreaks.
  • Numerous studies have documented direct transference of antibiotic‐resistant bacteria from animals to humans.
  • Quantities of antibiotics being sold for use in food‐producing animal species was increasing.

As a physician, I am especially concerned about the abuse of antibiotics, the fear of resistant strains of pathologic bacteria and the inability to treat sick patients when needed.

I offer my support and plea to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics wherever we can. Preserve these life saving drugs for patients who need them.


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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