A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns the overuse of antibiotics in the feed of farm animals is increasing children's risk of becoming resistant to medicines needed to treat serious infections. This advisory supports similar findings from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization that bacterial resistance linked to diet is a serious public health threat.
According to the CDC, more than 2 million Americans each year develop infections that are resistant to antibiotics, and as many as 23,000 die. In 2013, kids younger than 5 had the highest incidence of these types of hard-to-treat infections. The reason may be linked to the common practice of adding antibiotics to the diets of livestock in order to boost their growth and prevent the spread of disease.
"The connection between production uses of antibiotics in the agricultural sector to antibiotic resistance is alarming," said Victoria Richards, associate professor of medical sciences at the Quinnipiac University School.
"Children can be exposed to multiple-drug resistant bacteria, which are extremely difficult to treat if they cause an infection, through contact with animals given antibiotics and through consuming the meat of those animals," explained report author Dr. Jerome Paulson, from the Council of Environmental Health.
It's worth noting that pregnant women are also at risk. Also alarming is that, even if kids don't eat treated meat, they can still come in contact with resistant bacteria in the water and soil as a result of overuse.
Still, parents can do their part to decrease the chances of their families developing resistance to medicines by reading product labels, and purchasing antibiotic-free meats. When dining out, chose restaurants committed to using antibiotic-free meat like Chipotle and Panera, and avoid chains that don't deliver the same promise.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.