EatRight Ontario Print Header

Get answers to your nutrition and healthy eating questions. Visit www.eatrightontario.ca or call us toll-free at 1-877-510-510-2.

Get answers to your nutrition & healthy eating questions.

Call us toll-free† at
1-877-510-510-2 to speak directly with a Registered Dietitian.

Hormones and antibiotics in food production


 

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 Canada, growth hormones are only approved for use in cows used for beef. 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.

Hormones also occur naturally in all animals, people and plants. So there is no hormone-free beef. 
 
Growth hormones are not used in cows that produce milk. They are also not used poultry and pork production.


How are antibiotics used? 

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
  • Manage disease
  • Promote growth (in some animals)

Antibiotics are approved for use in beef, dairy cattle, chicken, laying hens, turkey, 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.


Are there hormones and antibiotic residue left in food?

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.
 
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 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 produced without hormones or antibiotics. 


Bottom line 

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 at levels far below the amount that could pose a health concern. 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 
The Real Dirt on Farming

Copyright © Dietitians of Canada 2015. All rights reserved.

Dietitians of Canada acknowledges the financial support of EatRight Ontario by the Ontario government. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.