Taking Antibiotics? There's a Good Chance Your Food Is

Last Monday, Brenda Langton hosted a special buffet at Spoonriver, her Minneapolis restaurant. This event, co-sponsored by the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, featured a delicious selection of naturally raised meats provided by local farmers Mike and Colleen Braucher of Sunshine Harvest Farm, and Doug and Connie Karstens of the Lamb Shop. While the food was a glorious celebration of spring, the purpose of the evening was dead serious: to discuss the problem of antibiotic resistance and the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA).

Following the dinner, Laura Rogers of the Pew Environment Group’s Human Health and Industrial Farming campaign spoke, outlining the issue: “The overuse of antibiotics on farms seriously jeopardizes the effectiveness of the drugs we depend on to keep our families safe from superbugs." Langton followed with a few remarks of her own: “This issue of antibiotic resistance is truly frightening, and it just feels great as a restaurateur to be able to play a role in educating the public and our legislators about the importance of strong action."

The misuse of antibiotics on industrial farms threatens the health of farm workers, communities and the public. This was underscored by remarks later in the evening by Maryn McKenna, author of the new book Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA. McKenna outlined in harrowing detail the effect that antibiotics are having on our health. Up to 70 percent of all antibiotics produced globally are fed to industrial feedlot animals to promote rapid growth and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that this has contributed “to the emergence of resistant microorganisms that can infect people,” something that is happening with increasing frequency around the world. (In fact, according to Prevention magazine, "MRSA infections kill 18,000 Americans each year, more than die from AIDS.")

The evening ended with three opportunities to get involved:

  1. Get informed. Learn more at any of these web sites: Pew Foundation's Save Antibiotics; Union of Concerned Scientists' Keep Antibiotics Working; Bill Marler's MRSA blog.
  2. Get busy. The proposed PAMTA bill under consideration by U.S. Congress would effectively remove many antibiotics from use in industrial farming. Your congressional representative needs to hear from you; use this form to send a message.
  3. Get antibiotic-free meat. If you're not sure how, ask questions and do some research. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Grown Directory, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, will help, as will any Twin Cities area food co-op.
David Nichols has come a long way from his hometown of Cincinnati, where he misspent his youth eating Greek chili and goetta. However, he’s not afraid to pair a fine wine with a cheeseburger -- one made with local, free-range, antibiotic-free beef, of course. Before joining SImple, Good and Tasty this year as a partner, David founded Healthy Heartland and toiled for UnitedHealth Group. He lives with his wife and two young sons in Minnetonka, Minnesota. You can reach David at or on Twitter at