New Data Shows High Usage Of Antibiotics In Farm Animals In The U.S.

There have been questions raised over the rules and regulations for import of meat into the U.K. from the U.S. following some new data that has revealed that about five-fold more antibiotic medicines is used in the U.S. in comparison to the U.K. in livestock that are raised for food there.

With respect to the rate of dosage per cow in the UK, the difference in rates of dosage is as high as 16 times and for cattle raised for beef, it may be as high as least nine times. The rampant use of growth hormones in beef in the U.S. has been the reason that there is a complete ban on beef from America at present all across Europe.

The fast development of “superbugs” which have the potential to cause death and serious illness and the increasing resistance to drugs is being reportedly caused by the higher use of antibiotics.  The World Health Organization intends to ban the use of some of the antibiotics, that are critical for human health, in animals

Politicians in the U.K. are trying to secure a trade agreement with various countries as and when Brexit is completed and this difference in the rates of dosage between the US and the UK has shed light on the possible terms and conditions of such negotiations in the future. U.K. is currently barred from entering into separate trade agreements with other countries as long as it is still associated with the EU. There are anticipations that demands for opening up of the U.K. market for agriculture and food products from the U.S. could arise when the two parties sit down for formulation of a trade agreement.

There are chances of pressure on the U.K. for allowing such imports when the country starts trade negotiations outside of the EU. There was a row recently with chicken being imported from the U.S. which allegedly contained chlorine – which was termed as bleached chicken by experts in the U.K., and there were allegations that such a practice by the firms in the U.S. can be put to use for hiding some of the bad hygiene methods in the supply chain for such food.

There were some clear indications that the U.K. would be facing a hard trade negotiation with the U.S. especially with regards to agricultural products which would obviously be a part of any trade agreement after Ted McKinney, the US under-secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, said that he was “sick and tired” of comments by the British and their concerns related to chlorinated chicken and US food standards while addressing a group of British farmers last month.

According to the World Health Organization antibiotic resistance can quickly spread through people consuming food that has an overabundance of antibiotics even as it can also spread fast among herds and flocks.

Suzi Shingler, at the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, said: “US cattle farmers are massively overusing antibiotics. This finding shows the huge advantages of British beef, which is often from grass-reared animals, whereas US cattle are usually finished in intensive feedlots. Trade negotiators who may be tempted to lift the ban on US beef should not only be considering the impact of growth hormones, but also of antibiotic resistance due to rampant antibiotic use.”

There has been concerted effort by British farming communities and retailers to reduce the use of such medicines and this is partly responsible for the huge difference in the rates of use of antibiotics in the U.S. and the U.K.

Peter Melchett, policy director at the Soil Association, said: “UK farmers have finally begun to cut their antibiotic use, and the government needs to be careful it does not undermine this process by allowing imports from countries that are not respecting UK and EU standards.”

(Adapted from


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