By: Isabella Bauer
Summer months involve vacations, relaxing with family, and laying out in the sun responsibly. More importantly to me, however, summer months mean hauling out the grill and cooking delicious food outside, which is a common occurrence for many as celebrations of Independence Day in the United States near.
While nothing can beat a perfectly grilled hamburger or chicken breast in the summer, it’s necessary to think about where the burger or chicken breast originated. Antibiotic resistance has been covered in the past, but it’s easy to disassociate yourself with the problem and assume that it’ll never effect you. Unfortunately, resistance to antibiotics is prominent, and it can easily effect anyone when consuming undercooked or improperly cooked meats.
When you buy your chicken from the grocery store, it usually comes from a farm with chicken houses that hold the chickens until they are large enough to be shipped out to a food processing plant. These chickens are typically fed corns and grains, but they can also be fed small doses of antibiotics such as Bambermycin to fatten them. While the antibiotics fed to the chickens kill most bacteria, some resistant strains of bacteria can be left behind. These antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria can then spread to humans through animal products, contaminated water or soil, prepared food on contaminated surfaces, and the feces of the infected organisms. Once infected with the resistant bacteria, the result can be mild to severe illness; something anyone would like to avoid especially during the summer months.
As many might have seen in the news recently, a strain of bacteria resistant to what doctors normally reserve as the “worst case scenario” antibiotic, colistin, was reported to have been found in a human in the U.S. for the first time. While the illness caused by antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria is concerning and should be avoided, it is not necessarily the ultimate problem facing medical and science professionals today. Rather, it is the scare that once sick with an antibiotic-resistant bacteria, doctors may not be able to treat the illness.
So what does this mean, and what should you do? Ensure that your foods are being handled and cooked properly at home, which will help you avoid getting food-borne illnesses at all, and also consider purchasing meats and produce from local farmers at farmers markets in and around the city that do not use antibiotics in their farming practices. Also be sure to shop smart at the grocery store and ensure that you are buying foods from farms that do not use antibiotics for their livestock. Be smart and safe this summer and stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria during these summer months that always seem to fly by too quickly.
Isabella Bauer is a senior at James Madison University and is the AAPS Public Outreach intern.