Mommy Growing up: Is our food safe enough?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is our food safe enough?

Working as a graduate student these past three years, I want to share something about my research and its  potential impact on our lives. I published this paper last year entitled “Differential heat stability of amphenicols characterized by structural degradation, mass spectrometry and antimicrobial activity" on the Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis (American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists).

HEY! We are resistant to your antibiotics! (photo source) 
As mothers, I understand we're very concerned on the health of our family and loved ones. I'm sure you have wondered how safe the food we've been feeding our kids are. Are they safe enough and devoid of any harmful bacteria or perhaps with an equally bad antibiotic residues?

We all know that consuming unnecessary or too many antibiotics may disturb or kill the natural bacteria found in our guts. These natural flora by the way protect our guts from the colonization of pathogenic/opportunistic bacteria and their subsequent entry to our blood stream. On the other hand, too much use of antibiotics contributes to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  With antibiotic resistance plaguing our society these days, we don't wonna get sick and then suddenly the antibiotics that are supposed to kill these harmful organisms are no longer effective. To site some of these scary superbugs, you have probably heard about the infamous MRSA. I bet everybody heard about the fatal and resistant E. coli infection that recently created havoc in Germany/Europe too. Way too scary right?

In my study, three antibiotics used for animal treatment and which may cause antibiotic residues in food were heated and examined for its heat stability. Since we usually cook the meat before eating them, it is very important to know whether the antibiotics when heated lost its potency or not. If it's degraded after cooking, well it's good news since it would be safer for us, the consumers. But if it's not, then it's definitely a bad news. It means we are unknowingly consuming these antibiotic residues all along. In other words, we are hosting a breeding ground for antibiotic resistant bacteria to develop.

Various quantitative and qualitative methods were employed to evaluate the heat stability of  these drugs. They were boiled not only on water but also on salt water, soy sauce, chicken meat, and even on a borate buffer (where the data was later discarded) to check its heat stability in various matrices, which is more or less similar to the real cooking scenario.

Results showed that although amphenicols were basically degraded after heating, florfenicol (a cousin of chloramphenicol ~ used to treat typhoid fever, meningitis, typhus), an antibiotic used to treat poultry, swine and cattle diseases was still able to produce another related compound with potential pharmacological activities. Meaning, the heat-generated compound could still kill the test bacteria (S. aureuseven after heating, how potent is that.

These findings are very alarming for us because cooking of food generally made us think it renders the food safe enough to eat, but then we are wrong.  Some antibiotic residues in food may either persist even after cooking or may even produce another active compound after heating. How weird is that!

How to avoid such presence of antibiotic residues then? Prevention is the key. Animal raisers have a big responsibility to follow the antibiotic withdrawal periods of these antibiotics. Meaning, they should make sure that the drug is gone from the animal's system before they sell its meat, eggs, milk and dairy products. Our government agencies (FDA, USDA) are also monitoring such presence or absence of antibiotic residues in food. However, we can't always be so sure that every food being displayed in the market has been examined.  Again, prevention is the key. Purchase of antibiotic-free or organic food then is far better and safer for us.

Are you aware of the dangers of consuming too much antibiotics? How about antibiotic resistance then?


  1. Love this post! I agree...Those harmful antibiotics need probiotic management. :) Wonderful site. Bravo! Thank you for stopping by.
    -Fellow SITS'er

  2. Hi, I'm a new follower from the Weekend Blog hop. Please follow my blog

  3. Thank you Sherlinda. :) Indeed probiotics are good alternatives to protect us from these harmful gut invasions of unwelcome visitors.

    Thanks Kristy. I'm following you too :)

  4. What a great article you wrote! I would love for a lot of people who argue with me about this to read the summary of your study. I am a big believer in organic and some people think I'm nuts :)

  5. Oh yes, organic food are healthier! You are way smarter! Thanks for dropping by!

  6. I have this conversation with my doctor often because my children have had so many ear infections. I never know what to do because I have never seen one of their ear infections go away on their own. They are in such pain and the doctor kind of just sits there and looks at me waiting for me to make a decision for what I want to do. I always go with the meds if they are offered and I know that this isn't necessarily what I should do. Thank you for this post! I'm visiting from VB :)

  7. I am definitely in favor of all natural, organic, grass fed, free range animal products. This is just one more reason. How scary is that to thing that we are actually ingesting potent drugs with our meat?!

  8. This is an informative post indeed. I always favor organic food for my little girl, but there are instances where you don't have a choice though. Thank you for sharing the great insights from your research.

    Princess Liya

  9. I did not know this, and I find your article a little bit scary!


  10. I'm definitely concerned about all of the antibiotics. I really, really do believe that everyone's over-use is causing so many problems. I never would have thought that heating would have rendered them harmless anyway, though. But, to make new compounds? Eek! I wish organic stuff was more affordable.
    stopping in from
    Heartfelt Balance Handmade Life

  11. I read this at the perfect time. My poor little boy is on antibiotics and they aren't working
    . . . again! It sucks that he's had to be on so much medicine :(

    I want to have a talk with his doctor now.

  12. This post was very informative. If there's an option for me to buy a product organic, I will. But I also pray a lot for my family to remain strong and healthy, not needing to take antibiotics for treatment if they do get sick.


  13. What an informative post. Love stopping by and learning from you. Thank you for taking time to share this with us.


  14. I'm a nurse and I'm very concerned about the over-use of antibiotics in healthcare, as well as in the food industry. People want a quick fix and ask their physician for an Rx and sadly many MDs will just write out whatever they want. My concern about antibiotic resistance inspired me to take a pledge to not use any antibacterial products this year as well!
    Sarah @ made in usa challenge


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