December 10, 2018
Antibiotics and Hormones in Food

Antibiotics and Hormones in Food

by Berkeley Wellness  

Antibiotics are widely used in conventional livestock production to increase growth and prevent illness in cattle. In contrast, these drugs may be used in organic production only if an animal gets sick, in which case the food can no longer be sold as organic. However, both organic and conventional foods are tested for antibiotic residues anyway. If any are found in milk, it is dumped. For meat, levels must fall below a set limit. The real bonus of organic foods is that less use of antibiotics in farm animals reduces the risk that drug-resistant strains of bacteria will develop and infect humans.

Similarly, organic regulations ban growth hormones in livestock, including rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), which is used on some industrial dairy farms to increase milk production. (Hormones are allowed in conventional cattle and sheep production, but not in poultry or pigs.) Similar to a hormone cows naturally produce, rBST stimulates production of another hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Higher blood levels of IGF-1 have been linked to some human cancers, but the significance of slightly higher amounts in milk is unknown and hotly debated. A more convincing reason to buy rBST-free organic milk is for animal welfare, since dairy cows given the hormone are more susceptible to painful udder infections.