Nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are administered to animals. Why are there anti-worm drugs meant for veterinary use on animals in baby foods in Europe and various anti-biotics found in trace amounts in meat fed to children and put into baby foods? Higher concentrations are in poultry products such as baby foods containing chicken or turkey. But those findings pertain to baby foods coming from or found in Europe.
There still are too many veterinary drugs in commercial baby foods you find on local supermarket shelves. Going to Europe with your children this summer? Maybe it’s better to bring or make your own baby food. Outside of the USA, veterinary drugs are still found in baby foods, even in tiny amounts. Can they build up in the human body and perhaps lead to resistance to antibiotics later on in humans? Inside the USA, antibiotics in meat are still found. So are pesticides on produce.
The quantities are very small, but in milk powder and in meat-based baby food, residues of drugs given to livestock were found. Researchers from the University of Almeria, a city in Spain, have developed a system to analyze these substances quickly and precisely. Check out the May 18, 2012 news release, “A new method detects traces of veterinary drugs in baby food.”
Higher concentrations of veterinary drugs are found in poultry that’s in the baby food. The veterinary drugs found in commercial baby foods include sulfonamides, macrolides and other antibiotic traces, as well as anthelmintics (anti-worm) and fungicides. In total, they found five veterinary drugs in milk powder and ten in meat products, especially if they were chicken or other poultry.
The study is based on research done at FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, and published in the journal Food Chemistry. The quantities are very small, but in milk powder and in meat-based baby food, residues of drugs given to livestock were found. Researchers from the University of Almería (Spain) have developed a system to analyze these substances quickly and precisely.
Antibiotics, such as tilmicosine, or antiparasitic drugs, such as levamisole, are given to livestock in order to avoid illness, but they can remain later in food. Scientists from the University of Almeria (UAL) have confirmed this, whilst checking new methodology to identify the minute quantities of these substances that remain in baby food preparations.
“The concentrations detected have been generally very low. On one hand, this suggests they are not worrying amounts, on the other hand, it shows the need to control these products to guarantee food safety” Antonia Garrido, Professor of Analytical Chemistry at UAL, pointed out to SINC, according to the May 18, 2012 news release.
With this objective, the team has developed a ‘multi-residue’ method, which allows several drugs to be detected at a time in baby food. Chromatographic techniques are used for this, in order to separate compounds, and mass spectrometry to identify them.
The “precise, simple and fast” methodology has been validated by analyzing twelve meat products (cow, pig or poultry) and nine milk powder samples. Data indicate that concentrations of veterinary drugs vary from 0.5 to 25.2 µg/kg in the former and 1.2 to 26.2 µg/kg in the latter “although with more samples, more conclusive results would be obtained,” Garrido explained in the news release.
The study that is published in the Food Chemistry journal, suggests that this could be because in some farms there is no thorough control on the administration of drugs to animals. Until now, the European Commission has regulated the levels of pesticides and other substances in cereal based foods for children and babies, but not in animal based foods.
As a result of the lack of regulation, a zero tolerance policy is usually applied to veterinary drugs in food, as they can cause allergic reactions, resistance to antibiotics and other health problems. Now one nutrition issue is who tests baby foods in America?
Antibiotics in USA baby food via the meat products since the vegetables aren’t organic unless labeled so
The baby food in the USA may be getting antibiotics in the food fed to animals. But who’s testing the baby food? Agribusiness companies not certified as organic may be adding antibiotics to animal feed so that piglets stay healthy and don’t get ear infections.
Seventy percent of all antibiotics in the United States go to healthy livestock, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists — and that’s one reason we’re seeing the rise of pathogens that defy antibiotics, according to the March 14, 2009 NY Times opinion article, “Pathogens in Our Pork – NYTimes.com,” by Op-Ed Columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof. Also see the site, Pathogens in Our Pork – Organic Consumers Association.
The antibiotics in the food in America is in much of the meat. For example, five out of 90 samples of retail pork in Louisiana tested positive for MRSA — an antibiotic-resistant staph infection — according to a peer-reviewed study published in 2008 in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Too many veterinary drugs are turning up in baby foods in various locations. See, Traces Of Veterinary Drugs In Baby Food Detected With New Method. And in the USA, a 2009 study of retail meats in the Washington, D.C., area found MRSA (bacteria) in one pork sample, out of 300, according to Jianghong Meng, the University of Maryland scholar who conducted the study.
Antibiotics in foods sold for human consumption are voluntary
In the USA limiting antibiotics in foods is voluntary. See the April 12, 2012 Food Safety News article by Helena Bottemiller, “FDA Issues Voluntary Plan to Limit Antibiotics in Agriculture.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking its biggest step yet to rein in the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that help food animals grow bigger, faster, according to that article by Helena Bottemiller.
The agency said last month that it’s asking veterinary drug makers to voluntarily phase out medically important drugs from being available over the counter in the hope that the shift will help combat growing antimicrobial resistance. Under FDA’s proposal, these antimicrobials will still be allowed in animal agriculture.
If veterinary drug companies agree to change the labels, farmers will be allowed to use the drugs only to prevent, control, or treat diseases and under the supervision of a veterinarian and not for promoting growth or improving feed efficiency, according to the Food Safety News article. The agency said it was taking the voluntary action to “preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans.”
Anti-Biotic drugs are used for animal growth promotion and production
According to the most recent estimates, nearly 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are administered to animals. The FDA may not know what percentage is used for growth promotion or so-called production uses, which the agency is trying to limit, according to the article, FDA Issues Voluntary Plan to Limit Antibiotics in Agriculture.
Will industry voluntarily act in the best interest of consumers or in profit from selling animal flesh? The FDA’s voluntary guidance is independent of a recent court order that directed the agency to revive a 35-year-old proposal to ban three antibiotics from animal feed — penicillin and two types of tetracycline — pending hearings. The health issue now is that antibiotics may contribute to drug-resistant bacteria strains in the humans who eat the food laced with veterinary antibiotics.
What are the meaning of terms such as free range poultry and meats?
“Free range,” “natural” and “antibiotic-free” are among the common terms on meat, poultry and egg packages today. Terms such as free range, antibiotic-free, natural and others may not actually mean what you think they do.
In some cases, terms you find on packages are regulated under federal organic rules. Other terms are standard regardless of organic status, according to the Mayo Clinic site. Some terms such as ‘natural’ aren’t regulated at all, and some may have no relevance to animal welfare even if they sound like they do. Take a closer look. See the article, Free range and other meat and poultry terms – MayoClinic.com.
The term ‘natural’ or “all natural” on a food label means not much. For example, carbon dioxide is natural but can be toxic depending on how much is in the air. You can be allergic to or have an adverse reaction to some substance that’s natural.
A product that says that it is “free-range” doesn’t mean that it’s organic, for example, just that it roams the range that can be just a few feet, without being caged in a smaller coop. It’s all relative. See the site, Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious?
Check out what the terms mean. For example, under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, meat and poultry products can be labeled as “no antibiotics added” if documentation is provided showing that the animals were raised without antibiotics. Similar allowable terms according to the USDA are “no antibiotics ever,” “no added antibiotics” and “raised without the use of antibiotics.”
The term “antibiotic-free” isn’t USDA approved, according to the Mayo Clinic website. If animals are given antibiotics to prevent or treat disease, an antibiotic-withdrawal period — usually several days — is generally required before animals can be slaughtered so that there are no antibiotic residues in meat or poultry.
Go to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “Free range and other meat and poultry terms,” written by the Mayo Clinic staff, to see the definitions of the rest of these terms that you see on packages of various meats.The words used on labels you may find on many food packages have the following terms:
- Certified humane
- Free range or free roaming
- Grain fed
- Grass fed
- Naturally raised
- Pasture raised
- Vegetarian fed
References to the Spanish baby foods study published in the journal Food Chemistry:
M.M. Aguilera-Luiz, J.L. Martínez Vidal, R. Romero-González, A. Garrido Frenich. “Multiclass method for fast determination of veterinary drug residues in baby food by ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry.” Food Chemistry 132 (4): 2171-2180, June 2012 (available on line). DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.12.042. Also see the article, A new method detects traces of veterinary drugs in baby food.
Healthier eating links from the Mayo Clinic sites