Lifesaving antibiotics losing effectiveness

FIRST ON 7: We are now confronting one of the greatest threats to public health because of what we eat.

FIRST ON 7: We are now confronting one of the greatest threats to public health because of what we eat.

Antibiotics have saved hundreds of millions of lives but are rapidly becoming useless because of overuse.

A 7News investigation has found up to 80 percent of the antibiotics imported into Australia end up in our food.

Before antibiotics, one third of humans died of infection before we turned 30.

Now, these lifesaving drugs are losing their effectiveness - in part because 80 percent of antibiotics are given to the animals we farm for food.

"It's time our Government took this seriously,” University of Queensland’s Professor Matt Cooper said.

“Obama has made it a national priority. The EU and the UK have all made it a priority, Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world here."

Australia imports all its antibiotics. Humans are given 19 million prescriptions a year - and we are the world's highest users.

Even worse, around 650 tonnes, almost 80 percent is given to animals bred for our consumption.

Incredibly, we rely on farmers to voluntarily report which antibiotics they feed their cows, sheep, pigs and chickens.

Experts say that is just not good enough.

" I think what we use in people, what we use in animals should be out there for the public to see," the ANU’s Professor Peter Collignon said.

Not only are our politicians and leading scientists unable to tell us how many antibiotics are in our food, we do not know precisely which ones are being used, especially those critical for human health.

Antibiotics, like Ceftiafurs, which are still in use, according to Greens Senator Richard Di Natale.

"[It’s] one of the antibiotics that people need when they get sick. The more we use them in animals the less effective in humans," Di Natale said.

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