Farms, Farming and Food

Food and Agriculture in the Maritimes, Canada and around the world

“Big Chicken” and FDA Battle Over Antibiotics

  • August
  • 14

4:57 pm agriculture, food safety

There is a growing concern over the use of antibiotics in animals and how excessive use (or misuse) of antibiotics in animals can lead to reduced antibiotic effectiveness in humans.

Antibiotics on the farm lead to human resistance

Numerous studies and evidence indicate (although not conclusively) that there is a direct link between the use of an antibiotics in raising poultry and human resistance to them. In Canada, a study concerning the use of a third generation cephalosporin antibiotic called ceftiofur in hatcheries matched a rapid increase in human resistance to the drug. Likewise when the drug use was voluntarily withdrawn from chicken hatcheries, the incidences of human resistance to cefiofur.

The antibiotic is injected into the egg prior to a chick hatching as a preventative measure against disease and illness. This allows more chickens to be raised in

The large amount of evidence has led an antibiotic resistance expert Frank Aares to say:

“Taken in context with all the other knowledge we have, anyone still opposing a link between antibiotic use in food animal production and direct human health impact does so for other reasons than science.”

Despite the evidence and the removal of the drug for “off-label use” in Canada and in other countries, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has withdrawn a proposed law which prohibits the extra-label use of cephalosporins. Extra-label use (sometimes referred to as off-label use) is the use of drug for a purpose for which it has not been explicitly approved. In this case, cephalosporin antibiotics have not been approved by the FDA as a preventative antibiotic, it appears to only have been approved for treatment of illnesses in swine and cattle.

FDA and ‘Big Chicken’ duke it out

It appears that there is a battle being waged between the FDA and “Big Chicken” over Antibiotics. It will be interesting if the FDA reintroduces a ban in the future or if the big agri-business (and drug makers) have won another round. Large industrial chicken farmers want to be able to use the antibiotic to increase the amount of chickens that they can raise in a given space and reduce the chance of disease spreading through their flocks. Understandable as those goals are, if it puts humans as risk of not having antibiotics be effective when required, I’ll have my chicken sans antibiotics.


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