Last Tuesday, President Obama directed federal agencies to serve antibiotic-free meat and poultry in government cafeterias. The FDA will require animal producers to obtain authorization from a licensed veterinarian to use drugs to treat a specific disease, rather than just to promote rapid growth, as is current practice. As much as 80 percent of all U.S. antibiotics are used in animal agriculture.
The moves come amid growing concern about the link between routine antibiotic use in animal agriculture and human infections by bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics because of their excessive use. The CDC estimates that antibiotic resistance causes two million illnesses per year in the U.S. and 23,000 deaths. It also adds $20 billion per year in health care costs and $35 billion in lost productivity. And we thought that animal products were just linked to heart disease, cancer, and stroke.