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Study: Antibiotics on the Farm Cause Harm in the Home

April 20, 2009

Boston, MA - What's good for the herd on the farm or the ranch is not necessarily good for the human consumer, according to recent studies by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Pew Environment Group. For the past 50 years, antibiotics have been given to farm animals to prevent disease and promote weight gain, but the studies find the overuse of antibiotics in food animals is leading to increased risk of human illness.

Kristina Diamond, policy director for The New Hampshire Public Health Association, says it's a real concern.

"It is certainly a huge public health issue. The use of antibiotics in animals lets humans become resistant to certain types of antibiotics."

Jan Pendlebury, a senior field associate for the Pew Environment Group, says thousands of people in the U.S. die each year because of antibiotic-resistant infections. She supports legislation to end the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals. Many in the farming industry deny a connection between those animals and human resistance, but Pendlebury says the evidence is solid.

"So all these government agencies are saying, 'Yes, indeed there is a link,' so we really need to have our elected officials act on behalf of the people who may be subjected to these dangerous microbes."

Legislation now in Congress would ban the use of non-therapeutic human antibiotics in animal feed. U.S. Representatives John Tierney and Barney Frank, both Massachusetts Democrats, are among co-sponsors.

The Pew report is at www.pewtrusts.org

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA