Antibiotics: friend or foe?

Updated: 2013-01-07 07:41

(China Daily)

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Antibiotics have been used on poultry since the 1940s to prevent and treat diseases, although some experts contend that this poses risks to humans as bacterial strains can develop stronger resistance to the drugs.

While one of the positive side effects is that antibiotics can promote growth, the downside is that they can lead to serious problems, including damage to internal organs and disorders associated with resistance to disease.

China News Agency recently reported that the country produces roughly 210,000 tons of antibiotics annually, with nearly 50 percent used on poultry and in aquaculture.

Several years ago, the US Congress rejected a proposed bill to make the use of antibiotics in animal feed legal only for therapeutic use. The rejection was based on scientific claims that slaughtered chickens may harbor pathogenic bacteria, which can be passed on to humans.

In October 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration discovered that two antibiotics were no longer effective in treating diseases found in factory-farmed chickens and both were subsequently pulled from the market.

To prevent any residue in chicken flesh, birds that have given antibiotics are required to be withdrawn from the production process for a specified period before they can be slaughtered.

Yang Wanli

(China Daily 01/07/2013 page6)