Angry Toxicologist

Antibiotic Salad Anyone?

Scientists took lettuce, corn, and potatoes and grew them using soil treated with hog manure that had the commonly used livestock antibiotic Sulfamethazine in it. All three plants uptook the Sulfamethazine. You know what that means: mmmmm… Wait, no, I think I meant yuk. With 9-13 million kg of livestock antibiotic used every year and the increasing use of the manure to treat crops, the risk of more antibiotic resistant bacteria goes up. The funny thing about the antibiotics and livestock is that it does nothing for the consumer (except shave a few cents of the sale price). If anything, it’s harmful. Yet we continue to do business that way. Why? Mostly because people will continue to buy it.

Instead of labels telling me when things aren’t made with bad practices, I’d like to see labels required that tell me everything that was done (This meat comes from cows treated with antibiotics and packaged in carbon monoxide to keep the beef a red color regardless of age). Truth in advertising. I’d like to see how long that meat would be the primary seller in the market.

PS Safeway no longer uses carbon monoxide as of last month. This wasn’t exactly voluntary but it’s nice to see.

Comments

  1. #1 mph
    August 1, 2007

    Could this uptake have implications for people who are allergic to sulfa antibiotics?

  2. #2 Mike
    August 1, 2007

    I am curious why the apparent anger over carbon monoxide. I can understand why some people may take a faith based approach and oppose the use of carbon monoxide. But for a scientific blog, when the scientific papers show that CO reduces spoilage, reduces waste and does not cause harm to people, what is the rationale?

  3. #3 ozzy
    August 1, 2007

    It seems that every time I eat a salad I am involuntarily being dosed with a drug. I don’t ever recall having a doctor prescribe a salad dose of Sulfamethazine. Sounds like a major legal problem for these vegetable distributors.

  4. #4 Liz
    August 1, 2007

    So, even people who avoid eating meat (or only eat meat raised under the best conditions) can suffer from the side effects of CAFO operations. Great.

  5. #5 Anna
    August 1, 2007

    Time to increase that backyard Square Foot Garden, I guess.

  6. #6 idlemind
    August 1, 2007

    Um, Mike, perhaps because CO use makes it more difficult for consumers to detect spoilage — it’s a deceptive practice. The meat might be perfectly OK to eat, but it should be labeled for what it is.

  7. #7 angrytoxicologist
    August 2, 2007

    MPH,
    I hadn’t thought of that. If there was any effect it would be very low level, I doubt there would be enough antibiotics to raise the level of IgG to a problematic state. Enough to kill off a few bacteria, though.

    Anna, That it is (preferrably not next to the arsenic leaching deck – sigh…). And for you MoTown residents, you’re in luck, plots for gardening are bountiful!

  8. #8 Graculus
    August 2, 2007

    Anyone for some back of the envelope math?

    -1 billion bacteria per cubic meter of soil.
    -aproximately half of the GMOs in use have a bacterial antibiotic resistance gene as a marker gene.
    -In the lab there is an HGT of 1 per 5.6 billion bacteria of these genes.

    (Fun fact: GMO genes are usually inserted on highly mobile genetic elements, for obvious reasons.)

    So, roughly 1 HGT per 5 square meters under production with such GMOs

    -conservative estimate of 250 million acres under production total.
    -conservative estimate of 60% being GMOs (85% for soy, 76% for cotton, 87% for oilseed…). Half of which is 30%

    So square meterage being 1,000,000,000,000… That’s 300,000,000,000 HGTs of antibiotic resistance genes to wild bacteria per year.

    Normally there isn’t any particular advantage for the bacteria to be antibiotic resistant in a field of soy beans. But what happens when you load the soil with antibiotics?

    NB: I have no ideological axe to gring with GMOs in general, but the implementation is really, really sucky.

  9. #9 factician
    August 2, 2007

    Graculus,

    You needn’t worry. None of the antibiotic resistance genes being used in molecular biology applications are for drugs that are used anywhere therapeutically. Ampicillin resistance is the most common one used, and to my knowledge, ampicillin was phased out decades ago. (Amoxicillin is different enough to be not broken down by the amp resistance gene).

    The most common source of drug resistant bacteria? Wild, pre-existing bacteria that were already out there. People characterize antibiotic resistant pathogens all the time, and I can’t think of a single instance where they found a gene that could be traced back to a gene used in molecular biology. Really, the largest worry is the large scale use of antibiotics seleting for pre-existing resistant variants.

  10. #10 Graculus
    August 2, 2007

    You needn’t worry.

    I think you misssed the tone of my post. It wasn’t worry… it was disgust.

  11. #11 rahul
    February 21, 2010

    Using carbon monoxide is meat packing is very harmful.

  12. #12 sesli chat
    July 20, 2010

    So, even people who avoid eating meat (or only eat meat raised under the best conditions) can suffer from the side effects of CAFO operations. Great

  13. #13 Sesli Chat
    August 21, 2010

    It seems that every time I eat a salad I am involuntarily being dosed with a drug. I don’t ever recall having a doctor prescribe a salad dose of Sulfamethazine. Sounds like a major legal problem for these vegetable distributors.

  14. #14 ankara evden eve nakliye
    August 22, 2010

    common source of drug resistant bacteria? Wild, pre-existing bacteria that were already out there. People characterize antibiotic resistant pathogens all the time, and I can’t think of a single instance

  15. #15 Krista Maymi
    December 30, 2010

    This is really good content.I understand some my not agree with it.