Today's Question: Should we have antibiotics in our food?

Friday, July 24, 2009 | 1:18 p.m. CDT; updated 4:23 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 24, 2009

COLUMBIA — Many farm organizations, including the National Pork Producers Council, think that new legislation regulating the use of antibiotics is detrimental to their industry. As a major pork-producing state, Missouri is ranked seventh in the country in terms of total number of pigs breeding and in the market. 

In a report from MU's Department of Animal Sciences, at least 11 antibacterial or antifungal compounds are widely used in swine feeds, and these compounds interact in specific ways to enhance nutrition, metabolism and disease control in pigs. 

The use of antibiotics is deemed as a precautionary measure by many farm organizations and has been supported by the pork producers in Congress. A New York Times article reported that legislation is supported by, among many other groups, the American Medical Association. 

Disease-causing bacteria are known to develop resistance to antibiotics when there is widespread use of the drugs indiscriminately. 

In the article, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said in a testimony to the House Rules Committee that farmers should not be able to use antibiotics in animals without the supervision of a veterinarian. 

Dave Warner, a spokesman for the pork producers council, said there is no conclusive evidence to link antibiotic use in animals to the health of humans. Despite such claims, Sharfstein stresses that it's been years since medical groups have accepted the information about the detrimental effects of over-using drugs, but farm groups continue to dispute these claims.

As consumers, what do you think about the use of antibiotics in your food?

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