Antibiotics in Meat and Chicken: Understanding the Risks to Human Health


It is important to only take antibiotics when they are needed and to follow the prescribed dosage and duration but antibiotics are often used in beef and chicken production to prevent or treat bacterial infections in animals. While these antibiotics can help keep the animals healthy, their use can also lead to the presence of antibiotic residues in the meat.

The use of antibiotics in beef and chicken production is regulated by government agencies in many countries, including the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets limits on the amount of antibiotics that can be present in meat sold for human consumption. But it’s not helpful for shedding the light on the serious issue in other countries.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Guardian in November 2022. The article exposes major fast food companies for using beef suppliers that employ antibiotics linked to the spread of dangerous superbugs. These antibiotics are classified as "highest priority critically important" to human health, and the World Health Organization has cautioned against providing them to cattle. Despite this concern, agriculture suppliers continue to use antibiotics to ensure the health of their animals and avoid economic loss. It also highlights the need to hold food companies accountable for their role in passing along antibiotics to the public through a lack of accountability and standards

Another published article discusses how McDonald's has been avoiding setting targets to reduce the use of antibiotics by farmers supplying it with beef. The overuse of antibiotics in agriculture is contributing to antibiotic resistance, which is becoming a serious public health issue. The article quotes doctors who have seen children who have built resistance to third-generation antibiotics due to their exposure to antibiotics from sources like fast food meat.

Regular intake of antibiotics can have savior harmful effects on human health. The overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which occurs when bacteria develop the ability to resist the effects of antibiotics. This can make it difficult or even impossible to treat bacterial infections with antibiotics, leading to a prolonged illness, increased healthcare costs, and a higher risk of complications or death.

Eating meat contaminated with antibiotics can also cause diarrhea, nausea, and allergic reactions and also disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the gut, which can lead to other health problems including increased risk of developing conditions such as fungal infections, antibiotic-associated colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Regular intake of antibiotics cascades adverse impacts on the immune system, potentially reducing its ability to fight off infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic shows that antibiotic resistance is responsible for more than 35,000 deaths in the United States each year and 1.3 million deaths globally. This highlights the severity of the issue to both national and global public health.

However, there is concern that the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can pose a serious threat to human health. To address this concern, many countries are implementing regulations to limit the use of antibiotics in livestock production.

Consumers can also take steps to reduce their exposure to antibiotics in meat by choosing organic or grass-fed beef, which is produced without the use of antibiotics. We should be aware of the potential risks associated with consuming meat containing antibiotic residues and choose meat products produced without antibiotics whenever possible. Policymakers and stakeholders need to work together to develop effective strategies to address the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture and mitigate the risk of antibiotic resistance.


The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian, November 21, 2022

Detection of antibiotic residues in chicken meat from different agro-climatic zones of Chhattisgarh, India by HPLC-PDA and human exposure assessment and risk characterization

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