In Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, titled “Freedom from Want,” the artist portrays an American Thanksgiving , centered around family, friends and food — critical ingredients for real nourishment.
Personally, I appreciate a national holiday dedicated to counting our blessings. And because I work to promote and protect public health, I offer gratitude to Sir Alexander Fleming, the man who discovered penicillin.
Our ability to control infectious disease, which includes the discovery of antibiotics, ranks among the greatest public health achievements over the past 100 years.
However, we’re at risk of losing our precious antibiotics because we’ve taken them for granted and misused them, especially on factory farms. Approximately 80 percent of all antibiotics are used in industrial agriculture, where animals often live in crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions. Animals are given low doses of antibiotics to both prevent illness and promote “feed efficiency” to speed weight gain.
However, the routine use of antibiotics on farms gives rise to drug-resistant bacteria that can infect and sicken people.
It’s hard to imagine a “post-antibiotic era,” where once easily-cured bacterial infections no longer respond to previously powerful antibiotics. But at least 2 million Americans are sickened, and 23,000 die each year due to antibiotic-resistant infections.
Make sure your Thanksgiving table protects your beloved guests. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are most likely found on conventionally raised meat and poultry. Don’t be fooled by “natural” labels – they tell us nothing about the way an animal was raised or if it received antibiotics.
Instead, choose an organic turkey. Only USDA’s organic label, by legal definition, guarantees consumers that our meat, poultry and dairy have been produced without antibiotics (as well as without GMO feed.)
Wishing you a hearty appetite, good health, and a delicious Thanksgiving feast.