How Large Are Human Health Risks Caused by Antibiotics Used in Food Animals?

  • Louis Anthony Cox Jr.
  • Douglas A. Popken
  • Richard X. Sun
Part of the International Series in Operations Research & Management Science book series (ISOR, volume 270)


Consistent with findings in risk psychology about what triggers strong emotional responses and concern (see Chap.  12), risk of food poisoning from consumption of food contaminated with disease-causing bacteria and antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” sparks strong political passions, dramatic media headlines, and heated science-policy debates (Chang et al. 2014). A widespread concern is that use of animal antibiotics on farms creates selection pressures that favor the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) (discussed in Chap.  6), multi-drug resistant (MDR) Salmonella, or E. coli (CBS 2010). The most common effects of food-borne illness are diarrhea and possibly fever, vomiting and other symptoms of food poisoning. However, more serious harm, or death, may occur in vulnerable patients. This is especially likely if food-borne bacterial infections are resistant to usually recommended antibiotic therapies, as might happen if the infections are caused by bacteria from farms where antibiotics are used for purposes of growth promotion or disease prevention. Patients with immune systems compromised by chemotherapy, AIDS, organ transplants, or other sources can have risks hundreds or thousands of times greater than those of consumers with healthy immune systems. Fear that use of animal antibiotics on farms contributes to a rising tide of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections has spurred many scientists, physicians, activists, journalists, and members of the public to call for elimination of the use of antibiotics as animal growth promoters.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louis Anthony Cox Jr.
    • 1
  • Douglas A. Popken
    • 2
  • Richard X. Sun
    • 3
  1. 1.Cox AssociatesDenverUSA
  2. 2.Cox AssociatesLittletonUSA
  3. 3.Cox AssociatesEast BrunswickUSA

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