Contrary to proponents of banning antibiotics in food-animal production, a government report issued last Friday does not show America's livestock and poultry producers are using “massive” amounts of antibiotics.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration report includes data on sales of all antibiotics intended for use in farm animals. For 2009, 28.7 million pounds of antimicrobial drugs were sold; nearly 29 percent of that amount was ionophores, compounds not used in human medicine.
Opponents of modern livestock production are pushing the theory that antibiotic use in food animals is leading to an increase in antibiotic resistance in humans and, therefore, antibiotic use in livestock production must be restricted. Several groups support legislation that would ban the use in livestock and poultry of antibiotics that prevent or control diseases and of ones that improve feed conversion and, thus, weight gain.
“Pork producers use antibiotics responsibly, under the direction of a veterinarian, to protect public health and the health of their animals and to produce safe food,” said Howard Hill, DVM, who serves on the board of directors for the National Pork Producers Council. “The FDA report does not show that livestock producers overuse antibiotics, and it doesn’t show that they are being irresponsible. It simply shows that 28.7 million pounds of antibiotics were sold in the United States.”
Randal Singer, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, who for 12 years has studied antibiotic uses and antibiotic resistance, has said that “all uses of antibiotics improve animal health, and these improvements in animal health can substantially improve human health.”
The FDA report, which was required under the 2008 Animal Drug User Fee Act, did not include data on the quantities of drugs used to treat sick animals, to prevent or control diseases and to improve feed efficiency and weight gain.
“Despite the fact that the FDA report lacks the data,” Hill said, “several groups continue to peddle junk science on the percentage of antibiotics used for ‘non-therapeutic’ reasons, which include prevention and control of diseases, and to make comparisons of antibiotics used in food animals with those used in humans.”
[For more information about antibiotic use in pork production, visit factsaboutpork.org.]