4 min read

Farmers Sneaking Illegal Drugs Into Dairy Cows

<p><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/boilermakerjim/4839048943/in/photolist-7oLXpV-pR3xpA-oDTKNQ-8nBoEk-aWk6YF-fQ7D8X-iokq1q-98k9AK-98k9Yv-882yQ8-aKthL8-qix6h5-qzVZLg-oDeSSY-6hxwBG-bZ7b21-dU6PQx-5sVysZ-fjRLXg-3M1Yr-6ri9QU-7NCBwX-98cYZe-8pYFP-3eaCWT-hdLRBJ-cJC8Y9-dRgbbq-6ri9S3-6ri9PY-6rdZs6-bXNweA-2GQSDt-45gaGk-ndh5sL-MxbZr-7FCUJ9-eM6vje-a7UYt9-8rYnHV-7NCHMH-9ncP7z-dnvuz-cJC8ho-di9c3-oJNZUB-oJPzoj-aAWbrX-9P6vER-cp9FHw">Flickr/James Brooks</a></p>

Some farmers have been illegally drugging their dairy cows with human antibiotics, according to a disturbing new report from the Food and Drug Administration.

Under current regulations, dairy cows are rarely treated with antibiotics because the drugs are transferred to their milk. When cows are sick and require antibiotics, farmers have to throw out their milk until the drugs leave their system.

To avoid wasting this milk, the FDA reported, some farmers have taken to using antibiotics they know the FDA doesn't test for so they can slip the tainted milk past regulators and sell it for human consumption.

The study, which was sparked when the FDA discovered suspicious drug residues in meat from dairy cows sent to slaughter, found illegal drugs in around 1.15 percent of the milk samples from these farms. The use of these drugs for dairy cows has not been approved by the FDA, and milk containing these drugs has not been confirmed as safe for humans.

Mike Apley, of Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, told NPR that two of the drugs found in the report are "totally illegal" for use by dairy farmers, while the other drugs are supposed to be strictly regulated by veterinarians so they don't end up being consumed by people.

Many farmers routinely mix antibiotics into animals' feed to promote quick, artificial growth, and to account for the widespread presence of germs when thousands of animals are crammed together as they are on factory farms. Of all the antibiotics consumed in the U.S., 80 percent are given to livestock. The widespread use of these drugs is accelerating the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or "superbugs," that kill at least 23,000 people per year in the U.S.

The new FDA report is a bitter reminder of just how far some farmers are willing to go to make money. It's not just animals who pay the price for shameful factory farming practices - consumers can also take a hit.