andrew schneider investigates

January 6, 2009

Animal antibiotics found in veggies

For half a century, meat producers have fed antibiotics to farm animals to increase their growth and stave off infections. But now, according to Matthew Cimitile of Environmental Health News, scientists have discovered that those drugs are sprouting up in the vegetables we eat.

Tests conducted at the University of Minnesota showed vegetables such as corn, potatoes and lettuce absorb antibiotics when grown in soil fertilized with livestock manure,
The reporter quotes the Union of Concerned Scientists, which says “close to 70 percent of the total antibiotics and related drugs produced in the United States are fed to cattle, pigs and poultry.”

The Minnesota study reported that antibiotic contamination has also been found in vegetables grown on organic farms. Manure is widely used as a substitute for chemical fertilizer in organic farming.

The researchers planted corn, green onions and cabbage, lettuce and potatoes in soil treated with liquid hog manure. Analysis found accumulated concentrations of the antibiotic Sulfamethazine, which is commonly used in livestock.

“Around 90 percent of these drugs that are administered to animals end up being excreted either as urine or manure,” Holly Dolliver, a member of the Minnesota research team told the Environmental Health News.


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