Along with consumers’ increased interest in how their food is grown, the question of how antibiotics are used on the farm also is being asked more frequently.
However, there is misunderstanding among consumers about how livestock and poultry producers use antibiotics, according to Jeff Bender, DVM, associate professor, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. The comments were made in an interview with Mike Adams, host of AgriTalk, at the annual meeting of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) held this week in San Diego, Calif.
“Antibiotics are important tools for livestock producers for a number of reasons,” according to Bender. “The first is for the health and welfare of the animal, which is hard for consumers to realize.”
Livestock producers use antibiotics in a judicious manner and observe label directions and observe withdrawal times to make certain there is no impact on food, according to Bender. “Overall, livestock producers do a phenomenal job.”
“Any time antibiotics are used, whether in people or in agriculture, it creates selective pressure on bacteria,” according to Bender. “Antibiotics are valuable tools used to prevent and control disease and blaming one particular segment is not the point. The point is judicious use.”
Bender says more effort must be focused on consumer education regarding antibiotic use in livestock. The educational effort must include information on how antibiotics are used appropriately.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that certain currently-approved antibiotic uses such as increased rate of weight gain or improved feed efficiency are no longer appropriate for “medically important” antimicrobial drugs. In its draft proposal ‘Guidance 213’ published in April, FDA has asked drug manufacturers to voluntarily give up label claims for these uses within three years. If completed and published in final form, the reduced scope of applications would likely eliminate this approval.
Further clouding the issue is legislation introduced in Congress under the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) sponsored by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, D, N.Y. Approval of the proposed legislation would eventually result in changing livestock production practices regarding antibiotic use.
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