Anyone plugged-in to the food industry knows that antibiotic-free chicken has had plenty of time in the limelight.
For years, farmers and ranchers have added antibiotics to livestock feed. Recently, health officials encouraged meat companies to stop using antibiotics because it creates a presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals. Last fall, the Food and Drug Administration released voluntary guidelines intending to phase out the use of certain antibiotics. According to the FDA, “it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary. Governments around the world consider antimicrobial-resistant bacteria a major threat to public health.”
Scientists, doctors, and public health officials warn that if antibiotic use continues at its current rate, routine infections could become life-threatening. The reason is simple. All animals carry bacteria. Giving antibiotics to animals kills most bacteria but the resistant bacteria survive and multiply. Resistant bacteria then spread from animals to humans. After a human is exposed to the bacteria, he or she can catch a resistant infection. This matters because resistant infections from common foodborne illnesses can cause more severe health outcomes than non-resistant infections.
At the end of the day, whether a company goes antibiotic-free is out of a consumer’s control. Practicing proper food handling, however, is not. Remember to clean, separate, cook, and chill to lower risk of catching a foodborne illness.