The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) announces the seventh in its series of Antibiotics Symposia: Antibiotic Stewardship: Collaborative Strategy for Animal Agriculture and Human Health.
All sectors of the animal food production industry and partners in human medicine and public health will come together for collective and continued dialogue around one of the most important topics in animal and human health today.
Since 2011, the NIAA-hosted Antibiotics Symposium has provided a setting for a thoughtful exchange of ideas for the betterment of animal and human health. Through six symposia, NIAA and its partners have been at the forefront of bringing stakeholders together to analyze, evaluate, and discuss the use of antibiotics and the threat of resistance.
Steven L Solomon, MD, FACP, FIDSA, co-chair of the NIAA Planning Committee for this Symposium answers the question: Why are we doing this again?
“This year’s symposium builds on the foundation that has been set up year by year since the series began. This is an incredibly complex and difficult topic.” he says. “It was never going to be solved in a year, or two years, or seven.”
It’s clear that the industry’s approach to the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture has evolved at a rapid pace in the six years since the first NIAA Antibiotics Symposium and that it will continue to change. This symposium is a chance to stay up-to-the-minute on what has changed even in the past 12 months. Changes in consumer demand have roiled the marketplace. The role of veterinarians in the management of antibiotics on farms and ranches across the country is continuing to grow. Governments in the US and other countries have enacted new regulations and guidelines. Industry groups and professional societies have produced numerous recommendations addressing the use of antibiotics.
For example, last year’s Symposium was anticipating the implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive going into effect with the New Year. Now, according to Solomon, after spending most of a year with the Directive in effect, this Symposium will provide an opportunity to hear from producers and regulators on what impact VFD has had, and on how its implementation is working out in practice.
The 2017 NIAA ABX Symposium will recognize, acknowledge and celebrate the progress that has been made. “Because the way forward sometimes looks difficult and people are working so hard to keep up, we don’t always take time to acknowledge how far folks have come in taking on this issue,” says Solomon. Collaborations around antibiotic stewardship have been developed and have been effective, and there is a genuine commitment in each of the sectors concerned to work together to preserve the efficacy of antibiotics for all uses, humans or animals.
“Throughout the industry, quality assurance programs have incorporated a targeted focus on how antibiotics are used and many industry groups and organizations have adopted the concept of antibiotic stewardship. That’s real progress.”
“Acknowledging that progress doesn’t mean we don’t also recognize there’s long way to go,” Solomon adds.
An important part of the path forward is getting a better understanding of what information people need to guide their decisions, whether they’re on the farm or the ranch, working at any of the steps along the chain of production, sitting in a federal or state agency, or trying to advise consumers on separating facts from unwarranted fears. The industry is committed to antibiotic stewardship; what does the science tell us about how to be effective stewards and still achieve the goal of having a robust and affordable food supply?
“Just the fact that we’ve gotten to the point where farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, or physicians can ask the question What do I need to know? is a sign of the progress we’ve made” says Solomon. “At the Symposium, we’ll explore what good science is out there, how it can be translated into the day-to-day work of the food industry as well as animal and human health, and we’ll ask what pieces of information are still missing. Setting an agenda for the still unanswered questions is very much a next step along the way to addressing this problem.
A very important related issue is how best to communicate what we do and don’t know. “There is an unfortunate amount of misunderstanding and misinformation out there on this subject and it’s easy to understand why,” Solomon says. The technical aspects of antibiotic use and resistance are complicated and even experts, while they know about their piece of the puzzle, don’t always have all the answers when it comes to others. It’s vital everyone understands the basic facts and are able to be part of the discussion. It involves everyone.
“Information has to be accurate, reliable and consistent, and we need speak in a way that doesn’t turn people off by being too technical and complex,” he says. “You don’t have to be a scientist to understand what’s important about this subject, but we do need to do a better job of explaining it.”
The last question to answer at the Symposium is something which changes every year: What do we do now?
“We want to send you out after the conference with information you can use right now,” says Solomon. “The next steps to take when you go to work the day after the symposium are different in 2017 than they were in 2016, let alone back in 2011. We want every sector and part of the industry to feel more confident in what they need to do to help address this problem right now.”
The NIAA Antibiotics Symposia are put together each year with the goal of promoting engagement and active participation across the food industry along the entire chain of production, from farmers and ranchers to retail, with a strong emphasis on bringing together a diverse set of stakeholders, including human medicine, state and federal public health and agricultural agencies. This type of exchange has been very productive and this Symposium will review the positive outcomes and interactions which have grown out of previous meetings.
“As always, we will seek identify our common values, share our knowledge and experiences in discussion and honest dialogue and look for areas of consensus on strategies to take us into the future,” Solomon concludes.
This year’s Symposium will be held October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency Dulles, Herndon, VA. Register at NIAA’s website, www. animalagriculture.org