Lifesaving antibiotic overuse has caused a significant decrease in their effectiveness, prompting the Obama administration to gather representatives of hospitals, professional medical organizations, food producers and restaurant chains on Tuesday and talk about reducing their usage.
The meeting was hosted at the White House, aiming to solve the problem of antibiotic resistance, a health crisis spreading nationwide. Each year, more than 2 million Americans contract or develop a disease that is no longer treatable by antibiotic drugs, resulting in a death toll of at least 23,000 people.
President Barack Obama has begun a series of initiatives last fall, when his science advisers came up with a national plan that would curb the abuse of antibiotics. It is the first time this problem has received presidential attention, but consumer advocates argue the strategy hasn’t been very efficient so far, especially when it comes to antibiotic overuse in agriculture.
There is an on-going series of events with independent initiatives from a number of food producers. In this category are Tyson Foods, Foster Farms and Perdue, all of whom have already planned on completely eliminating from their processes antibiotics that human also use.
At the same time, Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s, two of the biggest customers of food producers, have also started requesting antibiotic-free meat. Demand for drug-free meat is at its peak, forcing producers to change their practices faster than any efforts of federal agencies.
It’s been years since researchers have first started warning about antibiotics losing their treating power. These drugs have changed the fabric of human health beginning in the 20th century, but a dramatic overuse has turned their healing ability into nothing.
Some health advocates believe that if nothing is done to stop this trend, we face a very serious risk of going back to the time before antibiotics were discovered; people could start dying from common colds again, or infections that we now treat fairly easily.
John Holdren, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, announced at the meeting that the Presidential Food Service, which runs the White House Mess and serves the presidential family, will start serving only poultry and meat untreated with hormones or antibiotics.
In spite of the efforts of the Food and Drug Administration in trying to halt antibiotic overuse, the agriculture department had still little to no oversight, especially when it came to farmers being able to buy antibiotics whenever and from whomever they wanted.
At the meeting, the FDA announced a new governing role that requires farmers to use antibiotics only with prescription from a veterinarian. In turn, veterinarians are urged to respect state guidelines.
Multiple hospital representatives agreed to start stewardship programs with a more severe antibiotics oversight, pledging to rein prescriptions to no more than necessary.
Image Source: Rural Health Web