According to the WHO, approximately half of current antibiotic production is used in agriculture including food animal production. Antibiotics are used therapeutically to treat animals with infectious diseases, prophylactically to prevent diseases or their spread within a herd and, in some places, for growth promotion where they are typically given in low doses in the feed or water as they increase the rate of weight gain and the efficiency of feed utilization in animals.
The use of antibiotics in food animals has the potential to leave residues in animal products such as meat and milk. While low-level residues of certain antibiotics are considered safe in some food products, residues of other antibiotics (e.g. chloramphenicol) may pose an unacceptable risk to public health and are therefore prohibited to be used in food animals. how many antibiotics are there in our food? None, as long as the drug was used correctly in livestock and the statutory waiting period was observed before the animals were slaughtered. Antibiotics form residues only if used incorrectly or excessively. Potentially contaminated foods include fish and seafood, meat, offal, milk, eggs and honey.
The main problem with antibiotics is not so much the presence of residues in food, but the development of resistance. Each use of antibiotics carries the risk that bacteria develop resistance to the drugs and subsequently become uncontrollable, particularly when it comes to multi-resistances. Thus, bacterial infections may no longer be treatable in the future and often be fatal. Responsible use of antibiotics is, therefore, crucial – in veterinary as well as in human medicine.