Antibiotics in Foods: Everything You Need to Know

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If seeing “raised without the use of antibiotics” on your meat labels gives you some comfort about what you’re putting into your body, your fears may be misguided. The USDA tests meat, dairy, and eggs for antibiotic residues before allowing the products to enter the market. 

But if there aren’t significant amounts of antibiotic residues in meat and dairy, then why are consumer preferences trending toward animals raised without antibiotics? While there so happen to be good reasons for this trend, consumers certainly do not always have it right — click here to see health foods that are actually ruining your diet.

The answer is antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When antibiotics are used repeatedly to kill bacteria, those bacteria eventually adapt, rendering the antibiotics less effective, and requiring the invention of new ones to kill the same species of bacteria. 

Each year around 23,000 people in the United States and 700,000 globally die due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Those numbers could skyrocket if efforts aren’t made to curb the growing problem or if new antibiotics aren’t invented fast enough to keep mutating strains of bacteria in check. 

Antibiotics have been used in livestock and poultry for decades to treat, prevent, and control illnesses. They have also been used to promote weight gain. In 2017, to help address the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” the FDA banned the use of certain antibiotics in livestock for the purposes of growth promotion or feed efficiency. The agency only banned the “medically important” antibiotics, drugs that are also used in humans and considered crucial in fighting human illnesses. 

To determine everything you need to know about antibiotics in food, 24/7 Tempo  referred to current FDA regulations as well as numerous scientific publications. Note that data from before 2017 reflects the way antibiotics were used in livestock prior to the FDA ban on the use of medically important antibiotics as growth promoters in food-producing livestock. 

Click here to see 23 things you need to know about antibiotic use in food