A Cocktail of Antibiotics at the Price of a Chicken

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Center for Science and Environment (CSE) recently released a report saying Indian chicken breeders are relying more on antibiotics to add extra fat. CSE found 40 percent antibiotic residues in 70 chicken samples bought in various outlets around Delhi region. The report mentioned that 40 percent is not a alarming amount, but regular consumers of meat might develop antibiotic resistance, which might make the consumers immune to antibiotics prescribed to treat illness.

The report might cause dismay among regular chicken eaters in India, but it is not surprising, especially after considering the decades of ongoing debate on this subject matter in various parts of the world. Antibiotics have been used in poultry since the 1940’s, when it was found that higher growth can be accounted by antibiotic’s vitamin B12. These small doses of antibiotics (administered daily) resulted in 3 percent weight gain in an animal. At those times, the meat industries didn’t publicize this information. Later, the industries argued that there is no harm in administering small quantities of antibiotics.

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It is indeed true that initially, there weren’t residue violations as antibiotics were given to animals for therapeutic reasons and to prevent the diseases that might rise in unsanitary conditions. The vast majority of 40 billion plus chickens slaughtered every year is factory-farmed. When the bottom line becomes profit, then they definitely need to prepare a chicken to hit its slaughter weight within 35 days of hatching.

A report says 80 percent of antibiotics sold in US are used in meat and poultry production. Over the years, the small therapeutic doses have gradually increased, putting the meat consuming humans at risk. Controversies raised when antibiotics used to treat human illnesses are administered to farm animals. If a Chicken consuming certain antibiotics over time, then the bacteria living inside chicken get s resistant to that antibiotic. If humans ingest those resistant bacteria through improper cooked meat, then he/she may become ill and might not respond to the ensuing antibiotic treatment.

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A bill was proposed in United States Congress that would make the use of antibiotic in animals legal only for the therapeutic use, but it was never passed. Critics also argue that if the use of antibiotics in chicken or other animals is stopped, then the held back pathogenic bacteria might pass on to humans and cause various other diseases. The poultry sector, in India, has been growing 8-10 percent annually. Antibiotic residue violations mostly remain unchecked in India as there was no awareness, prior to CSE reports.

The CSE also conducted a study across Indian hospitals on antibiotic resistance. The result showed that several bacterial strains are highly resistant to drugs like Doxycyline, Ciproflaxin and Tetracyline. It might take some time in Indian poultry sector to set regulations on the use of antibiotics in chicken. However, CSE has made a set of recommendations, mainly calling for the ban on use of antibiotics as growth promoters. A full-fledged ban might not happen in the near future as it wasn’t even implemented on European Union and United States. However, the government should stop poultry industries from using significant antibiotics that are critical to treat human illnesses.

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