Despite declines of in-feed antibiotics (totally in
the EU and partly in the US), resistance issues are still a problem, according
to scientists and livestock industry members.
The 2005 DANMAP report
from the Danish government's programme for
surveillance of European antimicrobial resistance, the most recent statistics
available says: "Antimicrobial consumption in food animals is still low compared
to the total consumption before the cessation of growth promoter use." A chart
in the report also says antimicrobial use in animals levelled in 2004 and 2005.
At the same time, the use of antibiotics in humans has held steady from 1997 -
US cuts back on antibiotics
The FDA says about 70% of
infection-causing bacteria are resistant to at least one of the drugs most
commonly used to treat infections in humans. The FDA site does not say where
these bacteria acquired their resistance, but says use of antibiotics in animal
feed can cause microbes to become resistant to drugs used to treat human
In the US, sub-therapeutic antibiotic use in livestock and poultry feed has
declined in the last three years, according to Ron Phillips, vice president of
legislative and public affairs for the Animal Health Institute. Antibiotics are
being removed from animal feeds because consumers want them removed. In July
2005, the FDA removed its approval for Baytril
for use in chicken feed
because of its similarity to human antibiotics and concerns about resistant
diseases. "These trends correspond to an increase in therapeutic use to treat a
higher numbers of sick animals or birds. "It is precisely what is taking place
in Europe," Philips added.
An Iowa veterinarian also said
there is talk among pig producers of cutting back on antibiotics in feed, but
"it's a necessary part of production." They are fed not only as a growth
promoter but to prevent pneumonia and scours, or diarrhoea, he said.
to underscore this need, the FDA recently approved another antibiotic for feed
use in pigs, although it is to be done by "veterinary directive" only, the Iowa
The answer: Few and effective
According to Michael
Hansen, senior scientist at the Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer
Reports, the ideal rule-of-thumb is to keep livestock away from antibiotics
unless they are needed, and then to treat as few as possible with an effective
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