What Drugs are in the meat on your Barbeque? Summer is here and for many of us it means cooking food outdoors on the barbeque. Many people love to eat meat and savour the aroma of steaks cooking outdoors but does anybody actually know what is in those steaks and hamburgers? Antibiotics As long as thirty years ago pressure was applied to cattle farmers to eliminate the use of penicillin and two other antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease in animals grown for food. However the powerful lobby of cattle farmers from western Canada prevailed and cows were brought up with corn feed adulterated with antibiotics. Even back then, this non therapeutic use of antibiotics was being linked to the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that affect humans. Leading microbiologists at Health Canada felt that it was a very bad idea to fatten animals with the same antibiotics used to treat people. However, the Canadian Cattle Association and its lobbyists managed to block parliament from issuing any laws that would interfere with this practice. In 2005, one class of antibiotics, fluorquinolones, was banned in the production of poultry but not in cattle. In fact 70 per cent of this antibiotic is used in the agriculture industry. The government actually allows its use because cattle that are not allowed to graze are vulnerable to transmittable diseases because they live in crowded and unsanitary conditions. This antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, is the most commonly used and is marketed to humans under the name of Cipro. It is prescribed for men to treat urinary infections of the urethra and to men and woman who suffer from upper respiratory infections. It hardly ever works when it is used by people who consume meat in their diet. The bacteria that infect them are already resistant to the ciprofloxacin. Statistics Canada estimates that almost 9000 Canadians die each year from bacterial infection they acquire in hospitals. About 70 per cent of those infections are caused by bacteria that are resistant to quinolone antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin, the ones fed to cattle. That is why the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Pharmacists Association, the Ontario Medical Association and almost every medical professional group are urging parliament to phase out the use in livestock of antibiotics that are important to humans. Antibiotic resistance can be a very expensive problem. A person who cannot be treated with ordinary antibiotics is at risk of having a large number of bacterial infections and may have to be in the hospital undergoing treatment for weeks, even months. It is estimated that these extra hospital stays cost our government approximately 3 billion dollars each year. Of course the agribusiness argues that livestock must be given antibiotics to help them grow properly and be free of disease. But consider what has happened in Denmark since the late 1990’s when that country banned the use of antibiotics in farm animals except for therapeutic purposes. The reservoir of resistant bacteria in Danish livestock shrank considerably, a World Health Organization report found. And although some animals lost weight, and some developed infections that needed to be treated with antibiotics, the benefits of the rule exceeded the costs of treatment. The meat that people consumed no longer contained antibiotics, and people that acquired infections in hospitals were treated more successfully and released very quickly and sent home. At the present time industrial farms are using seven different classes of antibiotics that are important to human health. It would be nice if the pharmaceutical industry could produce specific antibiotics for the cattle industry but we cannot wait that long. Antimicrobials should be banned and farmers should take better care of their cattle to prevent disease. Bovine Growth Hormone Although this hormone is used in the United States it was banned in Canada in 1999. It not only increases the size of the cow but in the case of dairy cattle will allow for a much larger increase in production of milk. The product is made by a large chemical company known as Monsanto and marketed under the name Posilac. However it is important to know that if you are traveling in the United States this summer and order a steak or a burger it will contain not only antibiotics but also the genetically engineered form of bovine growth hormone. If you want to cook meat that is safe you will find that Costco and Whole Foods sell beef from cattle that graze in the field and eat grass. Cattle were never meant to eat corn and find it very hard to digest. Although this meat is more expensive at least you know that it is free of antibiotics and growth hormones. However, if you are like most people and shop for the best bargains in meat, poultry and fish, you must accept the fact that these birds and animals were fattened up by feeding them antibiotics. This means that a highly effective probiotic becomes one of the most important parts of your supplement regimen. I recommend one of the newer versions of probiotics made by Naka called Nutri Probiotic. It contains eight different strains with a total strength of 45 billion units. Taking at least one of these a day will protect your flora and give you the desired good gut health that you need.