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Meat producers’ overuse of antibiotics is unhealthy

A suspension of the common antibiotic amoxicillin is in short supply.Photo By Susan L. Angstadt/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images/MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Dr. Shannon Manzi of Boston Children’s Hospital is spot-on in highlighting the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance (“Anxiety rises as supply of antibiotics falls: Parents frantic in attempts to find amoxicillin,” Page A1, Nov. 21).

Antibiotics are a cornerstone of modern medicine, curing infections and limiting infection risk during procedures including surgeries. However, when meat producers overuse antibiotics or antibiotics are overprescribed, bacteria that survive the drugs are more likely to resist them next time.

Although antibiotics are critically important for human health care, nearly two-thirds of medically important antibiotics sold in the United States go to meat production. Many farmers routinely feed these lifesaving drugs to healthy animals to hedge against unsanitary, overcrowded, and stressful living conditions. This overuse can lead to multidrug-resistant “superbugs” that can cause dangerous infections in humans.


To match ongoing stewardship efforts in health care, the US Food and Drug Administration should set antibiotic use reduction targets for agriculture and gather robust data to enhance accountability.

Given the extraordinary investment required to develop new antibiotics and the lack of pharmaceutical companies working on them, we must rely on and preserve our current antibiotic arsenal. Some say that the post-antibiotic era isn’t a disaster waiting to happen — it’s already started.

Deirdre Cummings

Consumer program director

Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group