In an important column in The New York Times called When Food Kills, renowned journalist Nicholas Kristof sounds an alarm about the routine overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States are used to promote rapid growth in farmed animals rather than to treat illnesses in humans.
In fact, the state of North Carolina alone uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans - creating a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant pathogens that threaten human health worldwide.
According to Centers for Disease Control, nearly twice as many people die annually from tainted meat than died in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Making a powerful comparison, Kristof points out that "while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives." He blames agribusiness lobbying for this Congressional inaction and urges reform to ban antibiotic usage on farms.
One of the few legislators willing to take a stand on this issue, Representative Louise Slaughter, argues that "these statistics tell the tale of an industry that is rampantly misusing antibiotics in an attempt to cover up filthy, unsanitary living conditions among animals. As they feed antibiotics to animals to keep them healthy, they are making our families sicker by spreading these deadly strains of bacteria."