TORONTO, Nov. 25, 2019 /CNW/ - The world is facing a public health crisis because of antibiotic resistance. According to the United Nations, currently at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also known as "superbugs," can even be found in the food you eat.
That's because antibiotics are vastly overused in raising farmed animals globally. Superbugs can start on farms and then enter our food chain and environment. When antibiotic resistant superbugs are passed to people, they make us less able to fight disease.
A new report from the global charity World Animal Protection has found superbugs in pork sold at Walmart stores in the United States. The report showed that 80% of the bacteria isolated from Walmart's pork products were resistant to at least one antibiotic, with significant resistance to classes of antibiotics considered highly important or critically important by the World Health Organization.
Last year the charity released a report where pork products tested in five countries, including Spain and Thailand, also had superbugs resistant to antibiotics.
Pork products sold at Canadian Walmart stores have not been tested, but Canada does import pork from the US. According to the US Meat Export Federation, last year, 205,568 metric tonnes of US pork valued at USD$765 million was exported to Canada.
As of December 2018, in Canada, a veterinary prescription is required for antibiotics given to farm animals and antibiotic use in the livestock industry has decreased. However, administering antibiotics to farm animals for disease prevention is still commonplace.
The results from the Walmart pork testing come on the heels of a Canadian study from the Council of Canadian Academies warning of the potential rise in the percentage of bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotic treatments. The report states that overuse of antibiotics on farm animals raised for food contributes to this. It's estimated that about 400,000 Canadians are likely to die from drug-resistant infections by 2050.
One solution to help stop this and the overall global superbug crisis, would be to keep farm animals in better conditions.
"We know that raising animals in low welfare farms with crowding and unsanitary conditions makes the animals stressed and more vulnerable to illness. Mother pigs (sows) are still largely housed in cages where they cannot even turn around. That is why it is important to transition from these environments to higher welfare farms where animals have space to move and can live in an enriched environment. It's better for them and they are healthier and less prone to disease in the first place," says Lynn Kavanagh, Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection Canada.
Farmers who raise pigs in better conditions, agree that the health is much better for the animals. In Canada, all producers are expected to eliminate the practice of confining mother pigs in gestation (pregnancy) crates by 2024 and the Retail Council Of Canada, which includes companies such as Walmart Canada, has committed to sourcing pork from mother pigs raised in group housing by 2022. However, Walmart Canada has still not made a public commitment to this on their website. World Animal Protection encourages them to do this as consumers expect companies to be transparent about their animal welfare commitments.
World Animal Protection is also calling on global supermarkets to improve the lives of pigs by only sourcing pork from high welfare farms. World Animal Protection's Raise Pigs Right campaign wants pigs to be freed from cages and not left to suffer in barren environments that promote disease and increase the risk of superbugs. Rather, these highly intelligent, social animals should be allowed to live in groups, with room to move around naturally.
"Change is possible and higher welfare systems are good for the health of animals and people and it's good for business too," says Kavanagh.
About World Animal Protection
From our offices around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Kenya, the US and Canada, we move the world to protect animals. During 2018 we gave more than 3 billion animals better lives through our campaigns that focus on animals in the wild, animals in disasters, animals in communities and animals in farming.
SOURCE World Animal Protection
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