Protest against Antibiotics Gathers Steam

Zacks

Voice against use of antibiotics in live stocks grew louder as a consumer group emphasized on regulating the use of the antibiotics on livestock, as per media reports. The group is supporting the rule passed by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (:FDA) last week.

Meat processors like Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN) have again been brought under the scanner for overuse of growth-enhancing antibiotics on livestock.

The U.S.-based consumer group conducted a nationwide survey for six types of bacteria in 316 raw chicken breasts purchased from retailers during July. Results showed that almost all the samples contain harmful antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While 49.7% of samples contained a bacterium resistant to three or more antibiotics, 11% of the samples had two types of bacteria resistant to multiple drugs.

Usually, farmers use antibiotics on livestock for enhancing growth. Some of these antibiotics are also administered to humans to treat infections. As a result, humans who consume the antibiotic-treated meat products become antibiotic resistant and do not respond to the medicine when they are infected.

The consumer group, however, was happy with the FDA’s rule passed last week that required meat processors to eliminate the use of antibiotics on their livestock. According to the rule, food processors should gradually phase out the use of antibiotics, used to enhance growth of their livestock.

The regulatory watchdog has given a 90-day grace period to the meat producers to let the authority know if they will comply with the rule. The meat processors will get three years to completely phase out the use of antibiotics on their livestock.

The FDA feels that the antibiotics have been overused by meat processors for more than half a century. The FDA ruling will also require drug manufacturers to stop listing certain antibiotics as effective in promoting animal growth. Henceforth, farmers would require to present prescriptions from veterinarians for purchasing any antibiotic to ensure proper usage of the drugs.

Most restaurants like McDonald's Corp. (MCD), The Wendy’s Company (WEN) and Yum! Brands Inc.'s (YUM) KFC have stopped purchasing meat of animals that were given antibiotics for non-therapeutic uses.

Tyson has already started reducing the use of growth-enhancing antibiotics on its livestock. In early 2013, it launched the 100% antibiotic-free Nature Raised Farms brand. It has further enhanced the brand with the addition of a line of frozen products — Individually Quick Frozen.

Tyson claims that live poultry operations use only FDA-approved pharmaceutical compounds. They may include antibiotics that are administered under the direction of a licensed veterinarian in compliance with the FDA protocols. The  Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company, however, promises to become more responsible in the use of antibiotics on its meat products.

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