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Researchers Find Animal Antibiotics in Vegetables

Researchers Find Animal Antibiotics in Vegetables

Date:   11/30/2005 4:12:30 PM   ( 18 y ) ... viewed 2005 times

11/22/2005- Antibiotics given to livestock can end up in vegetables and pose
a health threat to consumers, according to a study looking at the use of
animal manure as a fertilizer.

The University of Minnesota study will add to the level of public concern
about the food the eat. It also serves as a warning to food processors that
they need to be vigilant when sourcing their vegetables.

The processing industry is under regulatory and consumer pressure to ensure
the safety of their food products. Regular breakdowns in food safety and
reports on contamination have raised consumer awareness about the problem.
The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Quality, indicates that
processors will have to be careful when sourcing their vegetables, whether
non-organic or organic. The contamination threat is due to the US laws
allowing farmers to use animal manure as fertilizer in both conventional and
organic agriculture.

In the study, University of Minnesota researchers found that corn, cabbage,
and green onions absorbed chlortetracycline from manure fertilizer obtained
from pigs that were given the antibiotic.

Chlortetracycline is a member of the tetracycline class of antibiotics that
are used in human medicine to treat upper respiratory tract infections and
other illnesses. Tetracyclines and other antibiotics also are used as feed
additives in poultry, hogs and beef cattle.

Feed additives are not used to treat disease, but to promote slightly faster
growth and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions on
industrial-scale farms.

When the antibiotics are ingested by a human they can spur the bacteria
naturally present in the intestinal tract, including types of bacteria that
can cause serious disease, to become drug-resistant, the researchers stated.
"Vegetarians may think the huge overuse of antibiotics in livestock and
poultry will not affect them, but that's not true for two reasons," stated
Margaret Mellon, the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Food and
Environment Program. "Consumers eating vegetables grown on soil fertilized
with manure may be unknowingly ingesting antibiotics. Even more importantly,
resistant bacteria that are created on the farm can contaminate air, water
and soil that can travel significant distances."

While raw and composted manure may be used with little restriction in
conventional agriculture, the US Department of Agriculture's rules requires
that manure used in organic farming be composted or be applied at least 90
days before harvest. In the study, the crops were harvested within only 42
days, so the findings may not apply to organic vegetables, the researchers

Demand for organic foods has increased by almost 17 per cent over the past
year, according to a report this week by Whole Foods Market. The latest
survey commissioned by leading organic supermarket reveals that about
two-thirds of the US' consumers bought organic goods in 2005, compared to
just over half in both 2003 and 2004.

According to the Organic Trade Association's 2004 manufacturers' survey, the
organic foods industry had $10.8 billion in revenues in 2003 and has grown
at an average rate of 19.5 per cent per year since 1997.

Market researcher Euromonitor predicts that sales of packaged organic foods
alone will be worth $8.6 billion at retail by 2009 ­ up from 5.1 billion in

Most of the participants said they opt for organic goods in order to avoid
pesticides, for their freshness, for their nutritional benefits and in an
effort to avoid genetically modified foods.
A majority of consumers also felt organic products were of better quality,
as well as being better for the health and the environment.

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