Human Food laced with Drug Residue

09 January 2013

Dr M.Sayedain Jaffery

Resistance against Antibiotics
Resistance against Antibiotics

Antibiotics, once known as wonder drugs ( may be, they still are ), are  chemical, biochemical or biological derivatives that  exert direct bactericidal effects and destroy the  disease causing microorganism. However,  unless used judiciously and as prescribed on the basis of their pharmaco-kinetic & pharmaco-dynamic peculiarities  these  sensitive products also have the potential  to induce harmful after-effects and long term sequelae that are inimical to health. Self-medication or indiscriminate use of any drug, for that matter, is loaded with esoteric hazards like initiation of hypersensitivity, toxicity and uncalled for effects on  microflora, pathogenic or not.

Due to empirical usage, mostly in incorrect doses or for inconsistent periods, resistance to almost all known antibiotics has widely emerged. In areas where such drugs are intensively & extensively used, the recalcitrant genes  are  progressively replacing the normal  genesis of bacterial flora  in animals as well in human beings. With the passage of time, the quantum of resistance  developed in microorganisms also tends to  aggravate.  Population  build-up of such drug-resistant microbes  multiplies  logarithmically and may contain variants  that are capable to  jump the  species-barrier and  establish  an  endless  cyclic spread  of  infection,  from animal-to-man-to-animal-to-man, and so on. Such  zoonotic dissemination may  eventually acquire pandemic  proportions and  various  types of diseases  may appear, that otherwise  were curable through correct usage of a correct medicines, but  start defying  usual  curative and preventive strategies.

Population of bacteria resistant to antibiotics can emerge due to :-    
i)    endogenous mutation or genetic  re-assortment
ii)    exogenous infection with a drug resistant strain,
iii)    unnecessary and repeated exposures of the animal to drugs against
which the bacteria  have acquired resistance,
iv)    selective multiplication of drug resistant bacteria


Quite a wide range of antibiotics and chemo-therapeutic agents is extensively being used on animals, including those that constitute the bank of Human Food like Milk & Meat etc, of Goats, Sheep, Cattle and Buffaloes and, of course chicken Meat & the Egg.  Unless completely utilised during metabolc process,  a drug can, and does, leave some residue in the tissues & excretions of an animal undergoing drug therapy.  This residue,  howsoever  negligible  in amount, besides  being capable to actuate hypersensitivity  in the consumer of  Food laced  with un-utilised  remnants of a drug,  can also induce drug resistence in the  organisms responsible for the disease. Later when subjected to treatment, by the same or other drug therapy, the  patient fails to respond positively or may even exhibit abnormal reaction.

Transfer to man of  the drug remnants, can either be direct through medication of the sick animal or contamination of Food chain, including water and  environments where food is handled, like an  Abattoir or Processing Plant, etc.

Resistance to antibiotics can also be transferred from one species of microorganisms to another, particularly those  that are common pathogens. Survival of resistant strains opens avenues for unchecked procreation of “selected ones”  that  can contribute to uncontrolled multiplication of pathogens hard to destroy.

Since the mandatory withdrawal period recommended by manufacturers of antibiotics & other curative products is rarely, if ever, practiced, detectable levels of residue of  antibacterial drugs  present in the food chain, i.e. in  Milk, Meat, Eggs and their products  and also vegetables contaminated with  drug resistant bacteria, are a source of scare for people involved in control or treatment of disease  in  animal and man.

Overall bacterial load is proportionate to the standard & efficacy of  health & hygiene measures prevalent in animal and human environments, particularly in facilities concerned with food production. More effective is the hygiene, more invigorating  will the food be; more bacterial count will end-up in more disease. If, through   effective application of appropriate Bio-security and Quarantine, the level of disease is  contained within limits,   the  need to use  antibiotics and other drugs   will also be curtailed. No doubt it is  demanding but is not impossible to  raise  Food producing animals & birds  that would ordinarily, not require medication. According to  William Ossler, “the One out-standing feature that differentiates man from animals is  the  desire  to  take  Medicines”

Self-medication is therefore the biggest curse of modern times and, the man exercises this choice on animals who otherwise are not fond of  taking medicines.

In the wake of increasing attention being given to Food, which should not  be contaminated  with  disease  producing  factors,  there  has  also been noticeable awareness towards  the  hygienic standards obligatory for  Food  production operations from “start to finish” i.e., right from raising a Food producing animal  to the  final out-let for human consumption of  Milk, Meat & Eggs produced.  In order to be able to obtain disease-free Food, extra-ordinary attention  has to be  invested in such sensitive stages as rearing healthy flocks with particular reference to their nutrition, slaughter, dressing, packing,  storage and transport etc  Each & every stage, the product under processing  has to go through before reaching the consumer, is loaded with potential hazards unless exclusive attention is focussed on hygiene. Hands of the workers and every  item or piece of equipment or clothing, whatever for that matter  that comes in contact with  fresh  and  raw  Flesh has to be   sterile, i.e. free of   all microbes, whether  able to cause disease  or not.

Mandatory codes of procedures, pertinent to the use of antibiotics & other potent drugs, are  needed  to  provide  guidelines to monitor & watch  over each and every  stage,  through which a Food producing animal  passes during critical periods of its rearing and growth. viz

a)    status of  Stress in environment  (micro- as well as  macrocosm)
b)    standard of health of the flock and  of the workers in pens/sheds
c)    nutritive value of Feed, critically balanced to suit  the need of animal/bird
d)    type & volume of medicinal agents used in Feed and or Water, as an aid to promote growth  or to  check  disease.
e)    efficacy of physical barriers applied to protect the flock from extraneous factors inimical to health,
f)    strategy of bio-Management enforced to help the animal develop resistance/immunity against infectious diseases
g)    type & dosage  of curative drugs & preventive vaccines used, duration of use  and,  period of  their withdrawal before slaughter
h)    quantum  of  the  residue  of  Drugs used, in Milk, Meat, Eggs, etc

To achieve success in producing Food,  free-of   factors that may induce hyper-sensitivity against drugs or be  inimical  to health of  the consumer, it is  highly imperative that this important issue be discussed threadbare  amongst  professionally competent personnel responsible for Public and Animal Health Such a discussion will lead to formulating codes & guidelines aimed at educating general public, the producer as well the consumer  to watch and establish quality criteria  for  Human Food derived from animals. Manufacturers of Antibiotics and other pharmaceutical products would also need to be associated with such a   drug-residue evaluation programme.

In order to inculcate some sanity aimed at judicious application of bio-prophylactic and chemo-therapeutic measures to control and eradicate diseases in animals & birds, without    sensitising the unwary consumer through transfer of  drug residues  in  Foods  obtained from animal origin,  All the stake holders, (the Grower of animals/poultry; the Manufacturer & prescriber of antibiotics/ medicines/ Vaccines, the meat Processor; the Whole-sale intermediary; Retailer and  of course  the Consumer, who has the biggest stake, should join hands & heads to find out solution of this  prevalent gross abuse of drugs.

Manufacturer of the chemo- and bio-products, in particular would not like to condone this indiscriminate use of their  products, being prescribed by  one  not competent to do so. Manufacturers of chemo-, and bio-products would rather themselves like to enforce a system of monitoring the  sale and use or abuse  of their product in field. Injudicious and un-called for medication of animals/birds can to a great extent be controlled  through education of the Farmer and application of strict self-monitoring by the  trade & professional Association of Poultry producers, Diary Farmers, Pharmaceutical manufacturers, Wholesalers, Retailers, etc.

Unless some bold and effective move is made by such bodies and other interested individuals,  the  abuse of Highly hazardous and Potent drugs will continue unabated and the dangerous residues will continue to induce sensitisation in  consumers, especially children. Involvement of Authorities  responsible for regulating the  Registration &  Sales of Antibiotics and Drugs, be solicited, if necessary, after finding measures to overcome this abuse. by the  stake holders in the public sector themselves.


This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More