A research team has discovered a banned antibiotic in animal feed prepared from poultry by-products. The concern is the antibiotic creates resistant bacteria, and some of these bacteria are food pathogens and could pose a public health risk.
Researchers based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Arizona State University discovered evidence that a class of antibiotics previously banned by the U.S. government for poultry production remain in use.
Researchers also found traces of other undesirable products, which included the pain reliever acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), the antihistamine diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl), caffeine, and the antidepressant fluoxetine (the active ingredient in Prozac).
According to Newswise, researchers examined feather meal, a common additive to chicken, swine, cattle and fish feed, for traces of drugs. Feather meal is a by-product of poultry production, which include poultry feathers. Used primarily as an animal feed, it can also be used to determine what drugs poultry may have received prior to their slaughter and sale.
The research team discovered various batches contained drugs called fluoroquinolones. Fluoroquinolones are broad spectrum antibiotics used to treat serious bacterial infections in people (used when older generation antibiotics have not worked). The traces of the antibiotics were found in eight out of 12 samples, with samples taken across different states.
According to the joint report, fluoroquinolones have been banned for use in animals used for food.
For U.S. poultry production, in particular, the drug was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005.
The primary reason for the 2005 FDA ban on the use of fluoroquinolones in poultry production was an alarming increase in the rate of the fluoroquinolone resistance among Campylobacter bacteria.
The bacteria is a major food pathogen and the CDC states Campylobacter species cause 1.4 million infections each year in the United States. If the bacteria becomes resistant, then it will be found in higher numbers and will pose a health risk in both under-cooked chicken and turkey products, and also to other animals which are given the animal feed prepared from the poultry by-products.
Researchers have called upon the FDA to monitor what goes into animal feed. At present, the FDA only issues 'guidance' documents and researchers believe there is a case for enforcement.