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Organic Consumers Association

Canadian Doctors Seek to Curb Antibiotics in Feed

The Canadian Medical Association is pressuring the federal government to investigate the human health impacts of feeding antibiotics to healthy beef cattle, poultry and hogs.

Doctors and scientists say the practice of lacing animals' feed with low-dose antibiotics to accelerate their growth is spreading drug-resistant bacteria to humans and rendering common antibiotics useless to treat illness.

A food chain contaminated by drug-resistant bacteria bodes ill for both public health and the cost of health care, and as drug resistance in microbes increases, the number of effective antibiotics in the doctors' arsenal has dropped.

"As doctors we are seeing that people have infections that were easily treated years ago, when all the basic antibiotics took care of most of the infections that people had," said Vancouver physician Dr. Bill Mackie, chairman of the environmental health committee of the B.C. Medical Association. "Of late there has been increasing [drug] resistance; when you put someone on an antibiotic that you expect to do its job, it doesn't work."

When a course of antibiotic treatment fails, people stay sick longer and doctors must resort to more exotic and often more expensive drugs, Mackie said.

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