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Ethanol By-products and Antibiotics Cause Concern

16 July 2009

US - A problem with ethanol by-products used as animal feed is gaining attention. Antibiotics used in distillation also appear to be passed along to cattle in the distiller's grain.

Sometimes technology produces unintended consequences, writes Jim Langcuster, Auburn University, for Southeast Farm Press. That appears to be the case with an ethanol by-product, known as distiller's grain, which is fed to cattle as a corn replacement.

According to the news report, several studies indicate that distiller's grain contains yet another by-product of the distillation process associated with ethanol production: Antibiotics.

The distillation process requires a combination of enzymes and yeast to convert corn into ethanol. Sometimes, though, bacterial organisms present during distillation can out-compete yeast in the breakdown of this sugar. The easiest way to address this problem is to introduce antibiotics to kill the bacteria, reports Southeast Farm Press.

Hairston says there already is a concern about the use of antibiotics in feed associated with concentrated animal feeding operations.

Indeed, a growing number of medical authorities fear that minute traces of antibiotics in drinking water promote the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Recently the US Food and Drug Administration proposed a much tougher stance on animal antibiotics. This could pose a problem for ethanol by-products.

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