Banned Antibiotics Discovered In Poultry Products
April 6, 2012

Banned Antibiotics Discovered In Poultry Products

A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University found evidence that a strong class of antibiotics, banned by the FDA, is still in use in commercial poultry production.

The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, looked for drugs and other chemicals in feather meal. Feather meal is commonly added to chicken, swine, cattle and fish feed.

The banned antibiotics belong to a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. This class is a broad spectrum antibiotic that treats serious bacterial infections, especially when those infections have become resistant to older antibiotic classes. The study, conducted in multiple states, found the banned drugs in 8 of 12 samples of feather meal.

David Love, PhD, and lead author of the report says, “The discovery of certain antibiotics in feather meal strongly suggests the continued use of these drugs, despite the ban put in place in 2005 by the FFDA. The public health community has long been frustrated with the unwillingness of FDA to effectively address what antibiotics are fed to food animals.”

In commercial poultry production, antibiotics are not necessarily used in treating disease in the birds. Antibiotics are used to make the chickens grow faster. In 2009 the US poultry and livestock industries consumed 80 percent of antibiotics sales that year, an estimated 13.2 million kg by weight.

The samples in the study came from six US states and China and were screened for a total of 59 pharmaceuticals and personal care products. All 12 samples contained from 2 to 10 antibiotic residues. Other products found in the samples included acetaminophen, the active ingredient of Tylenol, diphenhydramine (the antihistamine found in Benadryl), fluoxetine (the active antidepressant ingredient in Prozac), arsenic, and caffeine.

The New York Times reports that Benadryl is used to reduce anxiety among chickens because stressed chickens grow up to have tough meat and don´t grow quickly, Tylenol and Prozac serve the same purpose.

They also found that the caffeine comes from feeding the animals coffee pulp and green tea powder to keep them awake so they eat more. Arsenic, it turns out, gives the meat a nice pink color.

According to Rolf Halden,PhD, PE, Co-director of the Center for Health Information & Research at Arizona State University, co-author of the study said, “This study reveals yet another pathway of unwanted human exposure to a surprisingly broad spectrum of prescription and over the counter drugs.”

Farmers may not be the ones to blame for chemicals being discovered in chickens. They are at the mercy of the giant food companies that require them to feed the birds a proprietary food mix and the farmer may now know what exactly is in the mix.

Co-author Keeve Nachman said, “We haven´t found anything that is an immediate health concern. But it makes me question how comfortable we are feeding a number of these things to animals that we´re eating. It bewilders me.”