Just the facts. From the experts.


Best Food Facts reader Nora had a couple questions about antibiotics and probiotics in food animals. We contacted Dr. Paul Ebner and Dr. Stuart Price to answer her questions.

 Dr. Paul Ebner - Purdue University.

 Dr. Stuart Price – Auburn University


Q: As far as antibiotics in animals, doesn't this go away at some amount after it is cooked?  

Dr. Price: “Antibiotic residues are not ever allowed in food or fiber for human consumption."

Dr. Ebner: "The Food Safety Inspection Service of the USDA conducts the National Residue Program that routinely tests meat during processing to make sure the meat doesn't contain antibiotic residues in the first place."

Dr. Price: "Food animals treated with antibiotics must undergo a withdrawal period before products from them (such as meat or milk) can be processed for food, to allow time for the drug to be cleared from the tissue and thus prevent residues from being consumed.”


Q:  Why can't they use probiotics? 

Dr. Price: “Probiotics are mixtures of microbes, often originally species of the normal microbiota, which are used to replace or enhance gut microorganisms in an animal. Defined probiotic products contain a known, or defined, set of species, while undefined probiotic products contain unknown mixtures of microbial species. Probiotics have been used to prevent disease-causing microorganisms from colonizing the animal, either by competitive exclusion (where probiotic species outcompete the pathogen, preventing it from colonizing the gut) or by the production of compounds (such as bacteriocins) that kill colonizing pathogens. 

"Probiotics have not been approved for use in food animals, partly because of the undefined nature of some of them, although products similar to probiotics are being sold as growth supplements. To augment or replace the use of antibiotics in food animal production, a combination of interventions incorporating competitive exclusion products (such as defined probiotic cultures), along with other novel approaches, will need to be developed and thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy.” 


Q: What is the difference between antibiotics and probiotics?

Dr. Ebner: "Antibiotics can be used not only to treat infections, but prevent them from becoming established in a group of animals. Probiotics do have benefits and can promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the animal, but antibiotics are considered much more powerful at preventing and treating diseases." 


For additional reading on this subject, check out these posts:


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