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50 years ago, scientists first investigated antibiotic resistance in livestock


Panel to study animal feeds, Science News, June 27, 1970

Most animal feeds contain antibiotics … to promote fast weight-gain in species raised for human food. However, these animals may harbor microorganisms that have developed a resistance to antibiotics, and some scientists fear that these resistant organisms may be passed on to human beings…. [The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has appointed a panel to review whether] antibiotic resistance in man is enhanced by long-term, low-level exposure from foods.


The first hint that antibiotic-resistant bacteria in livestock can jump to humans came in 1976, when scientists found higher levels of such bacteria in the guts of farmers who fed antibiotics to chickens than in those farmers’ neighbors. In terms of the food supply, the FDA has detected varying levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meat since monitoring began in 1996. Cooking should kill these bacteria, though some have been linked to illness in humans. Since 2013, the FDA has phased out the use of antibiotics for promoting growth in livestock.


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