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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Giving Probiotics to Chickens Improves Food Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year at least 2 million people in the United States become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. At least 23,000 people die annually as a direct result of these infections and many more die from related complications. 

This growing pandemic is a direct result of the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in humans (taking them when they are not necessary) and animals (eating meat and other products from animals treated with antibiotics).

Antibiotics are given to animals to to speed growth and compensate for the filthy conditions of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in which most livestock are raised.

Eighty percent of antibiotics sold in the US are given to livestock and they are not subject to oversight from the federal government. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has allowed 30 potentially harmful antibiotics to remain on the market for livestock use, including 18 identified as “high risk” by the FDA itself.

Government studies confirm that antibiotic-resistant superbugs are already in CAFO-raised meats on supermarket shelves including 81% of ground turkey, 69% of pork chops, 55% of ground beef, and 39% of chicken.

Giving humans probiotic supplements containing healthy bacteria have been shown to reduce the risk of infection with harmful bacteria, which reduces the need for antibiotics. The same may be true for animals.

Scientists at the Institute for Food and Agricultural Research and Technology studied the effects of probiotics in chickens. Lactobacilli bacteria were added to the food and drinking water given to one group of chickens while the other group of chickens received food and drinking water without probiotics.

All of the chickens were infected with Salmonella bacteria, which were introduced directly into their stomachs. Three weeks later, the chickens were examined and those given probiotics were Salmonella-free while the chickens who were not given probiotics were infected with the Salmonella bacteria.

I hope this catches on because giving the animals we eat probiotics instead of antibiotics doesn't only have the potential to improve their health. It has the potential to make us healthier as well.


Pascual M, Hugas M, Badiola JI, Monfort JM, and Garriga M. Lactobacillus salivarius CTC2197 prevents Salmonella enteritidis colonization in chickens. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 1999 Nov; 65(11):4981-6.

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