Antibiotics in Meat & Anti Bacterial Soaps
Two alarming announcements have come out with the past several days:
Antiobiotics on the Farm:
The use of antibiotics in farm animals consumed by humans is creating more resilient strands of bacteria. Bacteria are becoming more immune to many common forms of prescribed antibiotics. It is not just the presence of antibiotics in meat but also over-prescription of antibiotics drugs by medical doctors is a major culprit as well. Here is what is alarming: according to the Washington Post, at least 2 million people in the United States become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria each year and at least 23,000 people die as a result. See Brad Plumer’s piece on what you should know about antibiotics at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/12/14/the-fda-is-cracking-down-on-antibiotics-at-farms-heres-what-you-should-know/
Now back to antibiotics in meats. According to the Brad Plumer’s piece, a shocking 80% of all antibiotics sold by weight in the United States are used for meat and poultry production which is eventually ingested by humans. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a guidance document to ask for voluntary phasing out of antibiotics. See http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378100.htm
Charles Kenny, writing for Bloomberg’s Businessweek, argues that the FDA has given a “pathetically weak” response to this emerging global crisis. Seehttp://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-12-23/fda-inaction-on-antibiotics-is-making-the-world-deadlier The FDA is naïve to believe that corporate meat manufacturers will voluntarily act in a responsible manner to tackle these problems especially when antibiotics are used to treat animals in unhealthy corporate farm conditions and to help promote growth of animals before slaughter.
There is not an easy answer but consumers should be very conscious of how their meat purchases and specifically, how the animals were raised before slaughter. Likewise, both Brad Plumer’s and Charles Kenny’s pieces give good guidance on how consumers can try to protect themselves from this growing serious dilemma.
Are Antibacterial Soaps Really Safe?
This past week the FDA is also investigating the safety of antibacterial soaps. Specifically, the FDA asking soap manufacturers to prove that the benefits of antibacterial soaps outweigh the risks—or take them off the market. See the FDA’s explanation of its action at http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm
According to the FDA, there currently is no evidence that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. Moreover, antibacterial soap products contain chemical ingredients, such as triclosan and triclocarban, which may carry unnecessary risks given that their benefits are unproven. The new proposal comes in light of recent data suggesting that the active ingredients in most antibacterial soaps, triclosan (in liquid soaps) or triclocarban (in bar soaps), may affect hormonal systems, according to animal studies, coupled with new evidence that humans may be exposed to much higher levels of these drugs over a lifetime than researchers previously believed.
Before going for the hand sanitizer, consumers should pay close attention to whether or not the product contains triclosan or triclocarban. I recommend two good articles that further explain why plain soap and water may be just as effective. See Brady Dennis’s piece in the Washington Post athttp://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/antibacterial-soap-makers-would-need-to-prove-efficacy-under-proposed-fda-rules/2013/12/16/6d4c8056-6660-11e3-a0b9-249bbb34602c_story.html and Ashley P. Taylor’s piece in Popular Mechanics (who knew??) athttp://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/med-tech/are-antibacterial-soaps-really-better-16290612?click=pm_news
If you have ideas, comments and suggestions, please let me know by dropping me a line!