Hormones and antibiotics can be used in food production in Canada. Read on to learn how they are used and what steps are in place to make sure our food is safe to eat.
How are growth hormones used in food production?
Hormones occur naturally in all animals, people and plants so there is no such thing as hormone-free beef. However, you may see labels that say “no added growth hormones”. This means that added hormones were not used during production.
In Canada, growth hormones are only approved for use in cows for beef production (beef cattle). They help to produce leaner beef at a lower cost to consumers by helping cows convert the food they eat into muscle more quickly and easily.
Growth hormones are not permitted for use in cows that produce milk. They are also not used in poultry and pork production.
How are antibiotics used in food production?
Keeping animals healthy is a top priority for farmers and animal veterinarians. Antibiotics are medicines farmers can use (with veterinary supervision) to:
Treat sick animals
Prevent disease in animals and fruit crops
Promote growth (in some animals)
Antibiotics are approved for use in beef, dairy cattle, chickens, laying hens, turkeys, pork and fish. They may also be sprayed on fruit and given to honey bees. All antiobiotics used with farm animals must meet Health Canada’s strict standards for human and animal safety.
There are concerns that the use of antibiotics in animals can lead to people becoming resistant to antibiotics. This is a serious problem that Health Canada is currently addressing by putting in policies to reduce risk.
Are there hormones and antibiotics in the foods we eat?
Health Canada sets maximum levels of hormones and antibiotics that can be left in food. These limits are set at levels far below the amount that could pose a health concern. Routine tests are also done to make sure these are followed to ensure our food is safe. Test results from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency show that hormone and antibiotic levels are rarely found to be above the recommended levels.
How are growth hormones and antibiotics regulated?
Health Canada highly regulates the use of growth hormones and antibiotics in Canada. To protect human and animal health, and the safety of our food supply, Health Canada:
Reviews hormones and antibiotics for safety before approving them.
Monitors the safety, quality and effectiveness of growth hormones and antibiotics.
Sets rules for the proper use of hormones and antibiotics. For example, no milk from a cow being treated with antibiotics can be sold.
Sets maximum limits for hormones and antibiotics that can be left in food.
How are growth hormones and antibiotics monitored?
It’s the job of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to monitor the use of growth hormones and antibiotics. Food produced in Canada and other countries is regularly and randomly tested to check the safety levels of hormones and antibiotics. If the standards are not met, the food can be removed from the food supply.
What about organic foods?
Organic food is not allowed to be produced with the use of added growth hormones or antibiotics.
The use of approved hormones and antibiotics to produce food is considered safe. Health Canada sets maximum levels that can be left in food. These limits are set based on levels far below the amount that could pose a health concern if eaten daily over a lifetime. If you are concerned about the use of hormones or antibiotics, you may choose to eat organic foods.
You may also be interested in:
All about Beef
All about Pork
All about Poultry
Understanding Organic Foods
Understanding Genetically Modified Foods
Last Update – September 14, 2019