food

We've got some bad news about sushi. Well, about seafood.

So it’s lunch time and you head downstairs to grab a bite and you’re thinking hey, what should I eat?

You spot the local sushi joint – fish, rice, veggies, maybe a sneaky prawn – and you’re already giving yourself a mental pat on the back for the healthy choice you’re about to make.

Back at your desk, roll in hand, you smile smugly at your burger-munching colleague, don’t they know their meat is pumped full of all kinds of nasties?

We often hear about antibiotic use in farming, globally it’s at an all time high. Along with our liberal use of prescriptions antibiotics, it’s considered one of the main reasons for the rise in so-called superbugs.

“Superbug” is the common name for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, aka the kind causing untreatable infections.

These spread through our hospitals like wildfire and kills tens of thousands of people worldwide every year.

According to the ABC’s Catalyst program, around 70 per cent of the antibiotics we use in Australia are on animals, which, perhaps surprisingly, isn’t actually considered excessive.

When large numbers of animals are confined in close proximity, the spread of bacteria is inevitable.

Rather than relying solely on antibiotics, Australian farmers tend to use mix of vaccines, special feeds and infection control mechanisms, which slows the rate bacteria develop resistance.

Disease and resistance can spread quickly on farms. Image: iStock

The problem is, the majority of meat we're eating comes from other countries, which brings us to fish.

Every year around 193,000 tonnes of seafood is imported from overseas - more than two thirds of what we eat.

Most of it comes from Thailand, New Zealand, Vietnam and China. A lot of it has been treated with antibiotics.

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"I wouldn't buy prawns for my family from South-East Asia," Emeritus Professor Mary Barton warned on Catalyst.

"I think the conditions that they’re raised under are not good, in terms of both disease organisms and antibiotic resistance."

According to the program many overseas fish farms treat their fish with broad spectrum antibiotics, which don't need to be screened for in Australia.

In fact, only around 5 per cent of the seafood we import is checked and mostly labs look for antibiotic residue, rather than resistant forms bacteria.

"When you look at those results, you see quite clearly that antibiotics are being used in imported seafood products and, you know, as night follows day, that tells you that there’s going to be antibiotic resistance present," Prof Barton said.

Watch the section on seafood from last night's episode of Catalyst (post continues after video):

Video by ABC

Consuming trace amounts of antibiotics in your food won't make you immediately ill, but our continued overuse of antibiotics does pose a bigger threat to humanity.

Impending apocalypse aside, properly cooking your meat should kill any harmful bacteria is carries. But eating raw fish like sushi inherently comes with a higher risk of food borne illness.

As unlikely as it seems, if you did get sick from eating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, you might actually be in trouble.

In some ways, the burger may have been healthier after all, but to be honest, we'd probably all be better off going vegetarian (animals included).

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