Antibiotics are routinely added to animal feed in poor nations, fuelling superbugs. But new solutions are emerging, writes Aisling Irwin.
When researchers asked pig farmers in Thai Nguyen province, Vietnam, whether they routinely added antibiotics to their animal feed to make them grow faster, only one in a hundred said yes. Fears had been growing that the practice, which fattens swine and also wards off infection, was widespread, but hard data was scarce, so the study’s results – obtained by researchers from Australia and Vietnam in 2018 – were reassuring.
But food safety scientist Hung Nguyen, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was not convinced. Cheap antibiotics are widely available without prescription in Vietnam and he suspected that his country’s 30 million pigs were regular recipients. So he sent anthropologists into the smallholder farms, who lingered longer than the surveyors – long enough to discover that farmers were regularly mixing the drugs into feed. Nguyen estimates that more than half of Vietnam’s pig farmers are doing the same.
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