The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the country every year and 35,000 people die — up from 23,000 in 2013.
Compared to UK farmers, US farmers use more than five times as much per kilogramme of meat produced, and eight times more for beef and turkey meat. 10 antibiotics banned in Britain are used to promote animal growth or kill parasites on US factory farms rearing cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys. Carbadox possesses carcinogenic properties and the potential for residues in pig meat. The US Food and Drug Administration has been facing strong opposition from the industry for four years over its attempts to ban this antibiotic in pig production. According to the Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) carbadox should be banned immediately due to the risk.
Simply banning hormone-treated beef and chlorine-washed chicken would not be enough to protect UK consumers if a trade deal is agreed between the UK and the US.
There are long-term antibiotic-resistance concerns about the other drugs used. They relate to the compromising of antibiotics identified as having the potential to treat hospital superbugs, cure cancer and even, in one case, treat Covid-19. Routine use creates the ideal conditions for the development of antibiotic resistance. Daily use of low-level antibiotics is far more likely to lead to antibiotic resistance than short treatments at full levels, if and when disease occurs
US beef cattle, pigs and turkeys are also fed a growth additive called ractopamine, which is banned in the UK, EU, Russia and China on food-safety grounds because of concern about “possible detrimental impacts on heart and cardiovascular health, from residues of the drug in meat and offal”. Russian regulators have linked ractopamine with shorter human lifespans.
The UK has adopted into law an EU ban on the import and production of meat using growth promoting hormones but is expected to come under pressure to drop the ban to sign trade deals. EU propose to ban all preventative use of antibiotics in animals from 2022.