Antibiotic Resistance at the
Forefront of Food Safety
While a long time coming, the U.S. Food and Drug Admin- istration (FDA) has recently announced the prohibition of the extralabel use of some cephalosporins in food-pro-
ducing animals, concerned that such continued use may lead to the
emergence and dissemination of cephalosporin-resistant strains of
foodborne bacterial pathogens. If these drug-resis-
tant bacterial strains infect humans, it is likely that
cephalosporins will no longer be effective for treat-
ing foodborne illness in those people. FDA is par-
ticularly concerned about the extralabel use of
cephalosporin drugs that are not approved for use
in food-producing major species because very little
is known about their microbiological or toxicological effects when
used in this manner. FDA has determined that such extralabel use
likely will cause an adverse event, presenting a risk to public health.
Antibiotics are given to food animals for many reasons: for infectious disease treatment and control or for disease prevention before a herd- or flock-wide outbreak occurs. In the past, using
antimicrobials for growth promotion was widely advocated to enhance the feed-to-weight ratio for poultry, pigs and beef cattle, providing a huge economic incentive.
Our cover story by Susan Vaughn Grooters, M.P.H., entitled
“Antibiotic Resistance: An Emerging Food Safety Concern,” fo-
cuses on the food safety implications of the misuse and overuse of
antibiotics in food animal production. She states, “The emergence
of antibiotic-resistant foodborne pathogens is inherently linked to
how antibiotics have been used in food animal production. Every
time an antibiotic is used, its efficacy diminishes. Once bacteria de-
velop resistance to a given antibiotic, they often lack susceptibility
to other antibiotics that share a similar mode of action or coexist
on the same bacterial plasmid. Creating policies, both in human
medicine and animal husbandry, which will minimize the overuse
and misuse of antibiotics is essential.”
One only need to have a friend or family member preparing for
major surgery to be reminded of the tremendous risks associated
with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in hospital
settings. And how many parents are able to say no to a prescription
for an antibiotic for a child with an ear infection? No matter where
we look, antibiotic resistance touches our lives. However, in the
arena of foodborne illness, it is critical that the issues be examined
very carefully and that the correct policies be mandated.
While the matter is still debated, we can all agree that antibiotic
resistance is a complicated issue that needs urgent attention and
continuing dialogue as the policies of food production begin to
shift to protect these essential drugs from losing their effectiveness.
Barbara VanRenterghem, Ph.D.
CEO, The Target Group Inc. Don Meeker
Publisher Stacy Atchison
Lucky Charm Bobby Meeker
Editorial Director Barbara VanRenterghem, Ph.D.
Art Director/Production Craig Van Wechel
Circulation Manager Andrea Karges
Administrative Manager Allison Demmert-Poland
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