Should You Hold the Burger to Fight Antibiotic Resistance?

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All but two of the Top 25 burger chains in the U.S recently received failing grades for their efforts to serve antibiotic-free beef in a report card from a group led by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Should you be concerned?

Antibiotics are essential to fighting and preventing bacterial infections in humans and animals. When used properly, they work wonders. Problems arise when antibiotics are overused by humans and in livestock production, such as on farms that produce poultry, beef and pork for restaurants.

To learn more about how this affects everyday consumers, Premier Health Now talked with Meredith Jones, RDN, LD, clinical dietitian, Premier Health.

If you eat a fast food burger, you won’t get sick. The meat is safe, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration takes steps to ensure that meat sold for consumption is free from antibiotic residue, Jones says.

“It’s bad as it relates to antibiotic resistance,” Jones says.

Antibiotic resistance is when available antibiotic medicines used to treat common infections are no longer effective.

“This is where the term ‘super bug’ comes from,” Jones says. “More people are getting sick with infections that are harder to treat.”

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria from livestock can spread to humans through animal waste that enters the water supply and the soil.

Antibiotic resistance does also occur naturally, but trends show changes are occurring faster than expected. The World Health Organization, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health. The CDC reports that each year, antibiotic resistant infections:

  • Kill 23,000 people
  • Make 2 million people sick

Here’s how you can stay safe and fight antibiotic resistance:

  • Frequently wash hands with soap and warm water
  • Disinfect areas touched by someone with an infection
  • Use antibiotics only as prescribed
  • Follow food preparation safety rules (avoid cross-contamination with raw meat)
  • Thoroughly cook meat

“There are other reasons why a fast food burger is not healthy for you, but if you are someone who wants to see changes in the environment and in how these fast food restaurants operate, it would be good to avoid some of these products to prevent worsening antibiotic resistance,” Jones says.

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Meredith Jones, RDN, LD