by Lisa Keilhofer

Strictly limited Last Resort Antibiotic in Animal Products

Chicken with antibiotics
Before the consumer gets a chicken leg, it is generously coated in a blend of antibiotics. Picture: Lukas,

On November 19, IQ, the science magazine of Bayerische Rundfunk released a podcast on the use of last resort antibiotic.

To begin with, scientists knew all along that the life saver antibiotic will not work forever, but only until resistance has developed. Meanwhile, this fact has also sunken into common sense. It is estimated that it won’t be too long until antibiotics cease to work and the reason is well-known: we use antibiotics too excessively and discontinue the use too early, at the same time. Bacteria that are meant to be killed can develop resistance. Consequently, resistance is steadily increasing.

Last resort antibiotics for emergencies

For this reason, doctors and scientists hold back so-called last resort antibiotics. Normally, these are not in use so that resistance cannot develop and are meant to be a last resort, for example when a patient is resistant to normal antibiotics. There is a general commitment to avoid the use of last resort antibiotics and spare them for real emergencies. However, in the production of animal food, this unwritten law does not seem to apply at all!

Last resort antibiotics sold at a loss in animal food production

Regimentation of antibiotic use in animal food production has not established, so far – at least in Germany (Note: Regimentations differ country-wise, this problem applies for Germany. In a former version of this article this note was missing and the issue seemed to be a worldwide one). Before the consumer gets a chicken leg, it is generously coated in a blend of antibiotics to kill Toxoplasma, Salmonellae and the likes. That’s a “nice to have” for the customer, but above all it makes sure the producers are on the safe side. If a chicken leg is cooked or roasted or prepared in any usual way, Toxoplasma and Salmonellae will be killed by the heat, anyway. So, even the use of regular antibiotics is a bit of over achievement on the side of producers. But what is even worse, examinations have proven that even last resort antibiotics are carelessly (and uselessly!) used. Valuable emergency medication gets into the human system and bacteria can start building resistance. Last resort antibiotics might get useless in real emergencies.

Forewarned is forearmed?

This finding is of course a valuable one. However, important measures are still to be taken. The EU commission has already imposed a bill to regiment the use of antibiotics better. But the law has not passed to far and it has to turn out what it looks like. What to do as consumer? Above all, industrially processed food is to be avoided. If you don’t want to give up meat, purchase it from your local butcher or producer. As mentioned before, a correctly prepared chicken leg is totally harmless and does less damage than the one bathed in antibiotic.

Lisa Keilhofer
Lisa Keilhofer

Lisa Keilhofer studied at the University of Regensburg. She works in internationalization and as a freelance editor.

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