The US National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has responded critically to the announcement of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a guidance on the use of antibiotics in pig, livestock and poultry production.
In a press release, the organisation said the guidance could lead to “the elimination or costly review of previously approved animal health products,” adding that “there appears to be no science on which FDA based the guidance.”
Despite strong and opposing views prevalent in Europe, the NPPC response has been consistent: changing current practices, which are considered to be valuable, should be pursued only when convincing evidence can be presented showing an absolute connection between the use of certain kinds of antimicrobials in livestock production and resistance to antibiotics in humans.
So far, the NPPC insists this has not been presented.
The FDA guidance calls for antibiotics that are medically important to humans to be used in animals only when necessary to assure their health. It also says those antibiotics should be administered with veterinary oversight or consultation. FDA said the guidance would be used to develop public policy on animal antibiotic use.
“This guidance could eliminate certain antibiotics that are extremely important to the health of animals,” said NPPC president Sam Carney. “FDA didn’t present any science on which to base this, yet it could have a tremendous negative impact on animal health and, ultimately, the safety of food. As we know, healthy animals produce safe food, and we need every available tool to protect animal health.”
Antibiotics that currently are not labelled for preventing, treating or controlling diseases could continue to be used if after undergoing a second rigorous FDA approval process one of those label claims is proved. The process typically takes seven to ten years and can cost antibiotics manufacturers millions of dollars.
On FDA’s call for animal antibiotics to be used under the “oversight” of, or in “consultation” with, a veterinarian, NPPC – which supports veterinary supervision – is concerned with the possible direction of the guidance. NPPC pointed out that a requirement that all antibiotics be accompanied by feed directives, for example, could be problematic given the country’s severe shortage of large animal veterinarians.
“Producers work with their veterinarians to develop animal health plans that include the judicious use of antibiotics,” Carney said. “The industry also has programs, including the FDA-reviewed Pork Quality Assurance Plus programme, that educate producers about the responsible use of antibiotics.”
Force of law
The guidance, which does not have the force of law but may be treated as such by FDA, is a move to address an increase in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans, which opponents of modern animal agriculture blame on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production.
But top scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health recently told a US House committee that there is no scientific study linking antibiotic use in food animal production with antibiotic resistance.