Since the therapeutic benefits of penicillin were first identified in the early 20th century, antibiotic treatments have quite literally revolutionized modern medicine. But despite their many benefits, there are public health risks associated with the unregulated use of antibiotics as well. These days, antibiotics aren’t just used to treat existing illnesses; they’re used to prevent them as well. This practice is particularly common in factory farms, where livestock is routinely treated with antibiotics regardless of whether or not the animals are sick.
In recent years, health officials have raised concerns that the unmitigated use of antibiotics could contribute to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause untreatable (and in some cases deadly) illnesses such as MRSA infections. With these concerns in mind, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a statement urging farmers to stop using antibiotics for disease prevention in healthy livestock.
According to the agency’s statement, The WHO “strongly recommends an overall reduction in the use of all classes of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals, including complete restriction of these antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention without diagnosis.”
In fact, a number of major poultry producers such as Tyson and Perdue Farms have already promised consumers that they will reduce or eliminate their use of antibiotics in healthy livestock. Now, following this stark warning from the WHO, more livestock producers may be inclined to follow suit as well.
Of course, if you really want to make sure the food on your dinner table isn’t treated with antibiotics, you can always raise your own backyard chickens at home!