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Banned Drugs Found in Poultry Products

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Researchers report that they have found evidence of banned antibiotics in poultry byproducts, suggesting that growers are evading a 2005 prohibition on their use in treating chickens and turkeys.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health and at Arizona State University detected fluoroquinolones, broad-spectrum antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections in people, as well as otherover-the-counter drugs and residues in feather meal, a common additive to chicken, swine, cattle and fish feed.

The Food and Drug Administration banned the use of fluoroquinolones in poultry production in 2005 amid concern about the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  But in a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, the two schools' researchers report they found the banned drugs in 8 of 12 samples of feather meal collected from six states and China.

"It's concerning to see that banned drugs are being fed to chickens," said David C. Love, the study's lead author and a microbiologist with Bloomberg School's Center for a Livable Future.  "They were banned for obvious health reasons."

Study co-author Keeve Nachman, also from Hopkins' Center for a Livable Future, noted that the FDA had outlawed fluoroquinolones in poultry production because of what he called an alarming increase in resistance among Campylobacter bacteria.

"With such a ban, you would expect a decline in resistance to these drugs," Nachman said in a press release about the study. The continued use ofthe drugs and unintended contamination of poultry feed may help explain why high rates of resistant bacteria are found on commercial poultry meat products years after the ban, he added.