80% Of All US' Antibiotics Given To Farm Animals


photo: CALM Action/Creative Commons

Even for someone who follows sustainable agriculture and animal welfare issues, this is pretty astounding: New analysis by the Center for a Livable Future shows that 80% of all antibiotics sold in the United States go to farm animals (Wired). The last time that stat was calculated, a decade ago by the Union of Concerned Scientists, it stood at 70%. For the breakdown of how the 80% figure was calculated, as well as discussion of it, head over to the Livable Future Blog.

For those with less time, here's the nut of it:

In accordance with a 2008 amendment to the Animal Drug User Fee Act, for the first time the FDA released last week an annual amount of antimicrobial drugs sold and distributed for use in food animals. The grand total for 2009 is 13.1 million kilograms or 28.8 million pounds. I ... contacted the FDA for an estimate of the volume of antibiotics sold for human use in 2009. This is what a spokesperson told me:

"Our Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology just finished an analysis based on IMS Health data. Sales data in kilograms sold for selected antibacterial drugs were obtained as a surrogate of human antibacterial drug use in the U.S. market. Approximately 3.3 million kilograms of antibacterial drugs were sold in year 2009. OSE states that all data in this analysis have been cleared for public use by IMS Health, IMS National Sales Perspectives™."

3.3 million kilograms is a little over 7 million pounds. As far as I can determine, this is the first time the FDA has made data on estimates of human usage public.

As the Wired piece linked above points out, beyond the fact that they way we raise animals on factory farms de facto requires that they be kept pumped full of antibiotics to stave off illness in the dank, cramped, unhealthful, and frankly unethical conditions endemic to such facilities, as antibiotic resistance on farms becomes a greater concern and blame is sought, "the answer has always been that human medicine is equally culpable because it uses similar volumes of antibiotics." The CLF analysis solidly shows that that couldn't be farther from the truth, at least on a percentage basis.

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More on Agriculture & Antibiotics:
Study Finds Sources of Estrogen in Water More Due to Agriculture Than Birth Control
Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs Widespread on British Farms
More Factory Farming Means More Antibiotic-Resistant Urinary Tract Infections
Tyson Injects Unborn Chickens With Antibiotics, Sues USDA to Keep Antibiotic-Free Label
CAFO Farms Boost Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria, Study Says

Tags: Agriculture | Animals | Diseases | United States