Are antibiotics in meat safe?

In this brief article, we will address the query “Are antibiotics in meat safe?” We will cover relevant information such as what the most common antibiotics are used in animals, what their purpose is, and how to identify the best products.

Are antibiotics in meat safe?

In a strict sense, high intake of antibiotics is not safe, however, the antibiotics’ concentration in meats is constantly monitored to ensure safe levels. Therefore, almost all meats are not likely to be a concern for your health in terms of antibiotics residues (1,2).

However, here you can find some tips on how to identify the best products to avoid antibiotics in meat.

Why are Antibiotics used in Animals?

Antibiotics are used in animals to prevent infectious diseases. Such as you, animals can get infected by bacteria, fungi, or viruses and have severe outcomes (even death). Therefore, using antibiotics is a good way to prevent economic losses (1,2).

The most common antibiotics used are, but not limited, the listed below (1,2,3):

  • Tetracycline
  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Sulfonamides
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Macrolides
  • Sarafloxacin
  • Amoxicillin
  • Penicillin

What are the Potential Risks of Antibiotic Use in Animals?

There are two main types of concern, the impact on human health, and the one related to the environment. When consumed in high intakes, humans can suffer from intoxication and anaphylaxis reaction, very similar to an allergy. Some intoxication signs are (3):

  • Cutaneous eruptions
  • Dermatitis
  • Gastro-intestinal symptoms like stomach pain, diarrhea, or vomiting 

Anaphylaxis reactions are very dangerous because it is a systemic inflammatory reaction. Anaphylaxis causes difficult breath, tachycardia, and even cardio circulatory collapse which can lead to death (3,4).

Another environmental concern is the adaptation of bacteria to antibiotics, causing mutations in bacteria genes that make them stronger against the used antibiotics (1,2). 

Resistant bacteria could be a big issue around the world, they could cause economic losses by infecting animals, and affect humans’ health with diseases difficult to heal with medication (1,2). 

What are the Regulatory Measures and Safety Standards for Antibiotic Use in Meats?

Nowadays, there are international organizations, known as regulatory agencies, that regulate the maximum concentrations for each antibiotic, for example, Food and Drug Administration, European Commission, World Health Organization, among others (1,2).

Regulatory agencies are responsible for removing from the market those products with unsafe concentrations of antibiotics (1). 

However, according to several studies, most products are within the allowance, and those which are not, the exceeding amount is below 1 % of the maximum concentration allowed; so it would not represent a health concern in the short-term (1,2).

How to Make Informed Choices?

As discussed before, there is not much risk of consuming high concentrations of antibiotics because there are regulations monitoring food products. However, if you want to completely avoid the risk of overconsumption of antibiotics, you can look for certification claims in food products’ labels (5).

The USDA grants the Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (CRAU) certification to producers that use antibiotics in an adequate amount, and in the correct circumstances (5). 

There are other certifications like Antibiotic-free (ATBF) from Control Union Certifications or Raised Without Antibiotics Certification from NSF companies (6,7); these certifications ensure the non-use of antibiotics in animals.


In this brief article, we addressed the query “Are antibiotics in meat safe?” We covered relevant information such as what the most common antibiotics are used in animals, what their purpose is, and how to identify the best products.


  1. Jammoul A, El Darra N. Evaluation of antibiotics residues in chicken meat samples in Lebanon. Antibiotics, 2019;8(2):69.
  1. Zhang Y, Lu J, Yan Y, Liu J, Wang M. Antibiotic residues in cattle and sheep meat and human exposure assessment in southern Xinjiang, China. Food Sci Nutr, 2021;9(11):6152–61.
  1. Menkem ZE, Ngangom BL, Tamunjoh SSA, Boyom FF. Antibiotic residues in food animals: Public health concern. Acta Ecologica Sinica. 2019;39(5):411–5. Disponible en:
  1. Valenta R, Hochwallner H, Linhart B, Pahr S. Food allergies: the basics. Gastroenterology, 2015;148(6):1120-31.e4.
  1. Certified responsible antibiotic use [Internet]. [cited 6 June 2023]. Available from:
  1. Raised without antibiotics certification [Internet]. NSF. [cited 6 June 2023]. Available from:
  1. ATBF – antibiotic free [Internet]. Certifications. [cited 6 June 2023]. Available from: