As much as I try to maintain some hippie mom cred with organic this, natural that, and breastfeeding until the end of time, I am very glad to be a mother in the 21st century. As I’ve written before, I am grateful for vaccines that protect O from deadly diseases and a c-section that may have saved O’s and my lives. I try to use it very sparingly, but I think ibuprofen is freaking nectar of the gods when it comes to bad teething. I nearly dunked O in hand sanitizer after he stuck his hand in the bird cage at the zoo today.
But being a parent in the 21st century also means you have to be constantly searching for info on which modern day advances are good ones and which are bad ones. One day Tylenol is recommended for babies, the next day it’s causing asthma. Teething gel is good…no wait, it’s bad. Vaccines are good…no bad…no good again. Oh you didn’t know that formula you’ve been using for months killed a couple babies? You’ll either be neurotic trying to avoid all the bad stuff or feel guilty because you didn’t.
So I think most of us wait for news like government recalls before we totally freak out. Someone in charge is monitoring this stuff, right?
That’s why I got so agitated last week to learn that a court had to FORCE the FDA to take action on the ridiculous amount of antibiotics used in livestock. If you don’t know how bad the use of antibiotics are, the Atlantic just published a piece by Dr. Robert S. Lawrence that describes it perfectly:
“The vast majority of antibiotics in this country — about 80 percent — are sold for use in food animal production, not to treat humans. The vast majority of animals that receive these drugs are not sick, and the doses they receive would be too low to successfully treat bacterial infections if they were. Rather, low doses of antibiotics are fed to healthy animals throughout their lives to speed their growth and to reduce infections in the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions commonly found at the industrial operations that produce these animals.
“Using antibiotics this way continuously exposes bacteria to low doses of these drugs, providing an ideal environment for the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can infect humans on farms, in the environment, and in the food we eat. For this reason, physicians and scientists have long sought restrictions on the agricultural use of antibiotics.
Likewise, the World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted the misuse of antibiotics in food animal production when warning of a “post-antibiotic era” in which drugs are no longer effective and currently manageable infections, left untreated, turn deadly.”
So despite the overwhelming evidence that the overuse of antibiotics is putting the public health at risk, a court had to force the FDA to do something other than ask the livestock industry real, real nicely if they would pretty please consider not using so much, which is what they did in 2010. Surprisingly, that tact did not work.
Meanwhile, I have heard lots of parents say they try to avoid getting antibiotics for their kids for fear that the overuse will make them ineffective. While that is a concern, it doesn’t appear to be the primary problem.
At the same time, a lot of parents are also forking over a lot of money to buy meat and poultry that is antibiotic free. But that’s not going to protect our kids from these super antibiotic resistant bugs if everyone else is already eating the bad stuff. But the people buying the bad stuff aren’t to blame. It’s not just expensive, but very hard to find antibiotic-free meat and poultry. This is exactly the type of situation – when the public can’t do anything on their own to protect themselves – when the government needs to step in.
Fortunately, a judge realized this and told the FDA they need to do their job. Unfortunately, it will undoubtedly take years for a decision and compliance.
Of course, you absolutely should try to buy organic, naturally-produced meat and dairy if you can. And I think there’s good reason to talk to your pediatrician about whether your kids really need antibiotics when they’re sick.
But of all the stuff we have to worry about, this is absolutely one that should be taken off our plate.