Farmers urged to stop using antibiotics in healthy animals

09 November, 2017, 02:00 | Author: Hope Soto

The food industry should stop using antibiotics to boost growth in healthy animals, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says in new guidelines that are meant to curb human resistance to such medicines. Without achieving significant, measurable reductions in their use in food animals, we can not hope to effectively curb the spread of resistant bacteria and preserve the efficacy of medicines needed to treat human illness. They are complying with an FDA directive that prohibits the use of antibiotics important to human medicine for promoting animal growth and that requires feed and water uses of those same antibiotics to be under a veterinary prescription.

The chairman said the consequences of reducing necessary antibiotic use in animals must be carefully considered, as it can have serious animal welfare and health implications and increase production costs for very little if any contribution towards reducing antimicrobial resistance.

In some countries, 80 percent of all the used antibiotics end up as growth-promotion medication in the animal sector, according to the Geneva-based United Nations health agency. Given such high usage of antibiotics in the animal food sector, some common strains of bacteria have already developed resistance and they can cause serious infections in humans.

"We have consistently advocated for FDA to better align domestic policies with the World Health Organization and to take stronger measures to restrict and reduce use of antibiotics in food animals raised in the USA", says Cameron Harsh, Senior Manager for Organic & Animal Policy. The practice is now banned in the European Union since 2006, but is widespread in the United States and Asia.

"Healthy animals will not receive antibiotics for prevention of a disease diagnosed in other animals of the same herd, of the same farm or the same population in the case of fish", does it. "We have several examples of countries that have enacted these steps exactly and have seen remarkable decreases in their overall use of medically important antibiotics in just a couple years".

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Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA acting chief scientist, said, "The WHO guidelines are not in alignment with USA policy and are not supported by sound science".

Antibiotics are often used as a preventive measure for illnesses that can occur when animals are overcrowded or are kept in unsanitary conditions, which is not a smart use of life-saving antibiotics, according to a report. World Health Organization has published a list of "critically important" antimicrobials every year. Consumers are also driving the demand for meat raised without routine use of antibiotics, with some major food chains adopting "antibiotic-free" policies for their meat supplies. This research directly informed the development of WHO's new guidelines.

Alternative options to using antibiotics for disease prevention in animals include improving hygiene, better use of vaccination, and changes in animal housing and husbandry practices.

"Scientific evidence demonstrates that overuse of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance", Department of Food Safety Director at WHO, Dr. Kazuaki Miyagishima, said.

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