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Title: Pyrrhic progress : antibiotics and western food production (1949-2013)
Author: Kirchhelle, Claas
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 5059
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This dissertation addresses the history of antibiotic use in British and US food production between 1950 and 2013. Introduced to agriculture in the 1950s, antibiotics underpinned the 20th-century revolution in Western food production. However, from the late 1950s onwards, controversies over antibiotic resistance, residues and animal welfare began to tarnish antibiotics' image. By mapping both the enthusiasm and the controversies surrounding antibiotic use, this dissertation shows how distinct civic epistemologies of risk influenced consumers', producers' and officials' attitudes towards antibiotics. These differing risk perceptions did not emerge by chance: in Britain, popular animal welfare concerns fused with new scenarios of antibiotic resistance and drove reform. Following 1969, Britain pioneered antibiotic resistance regulation by banning certain feed antibiotics. However, subsequent reforms were only partially implemented, and total antibiotic consumption failed to sink. Meanwhile, scandals and public pressure forced the American FDA to install the first comprehensive monitoring program for antibiotic residues. However, differing public priorities and industrial opposition meant that the FDA failed to convince Congress of resistance-inspired bans. The transatlantic regulatory gap has since widened: following the BSE crisis, the EU phased out growth-promoting antibiotic feeds in 2006. The US proclaimed only a voluntary and partial ban of antibiotic feeds in December 2013. In the face of contemporary warnings about failing antibiotics, the dissertation shows how one group of substances acquired different meanings for different communities. It also reveals that the dilemma of antibiotic regulation is hardly new. Despite knowing about antibiotic allergies and resistance since the 1940s, no country has managed to solve the dilemma of preserving antibiotics' economic benefits whilst containing their medical risks. Historically, effective antibiotic regulation emerged only when differing perceptions of antibiotics were broken down either by sustained regulatory reform or large crises.
Supervisor: Harrison, Mark Sponsor: Wellcome Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Medicine--History--20th century ; Antibiotics--History ; Antibiotics in animal nutrition ; Drug resistance in microorganisms ; Food industry and trade--Risk management ; Food industry and trade--United States--History--20th Century ; Food industry and trade--Great Britain--History--20th Century