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US federation raises livestock antibiotics concern

By Nicholas Robinson , 19-Jul-2012
Last updated on 20-Jul-2012 at 11:21 GMT

US federation raises livestock antibiotics concern

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has hit back at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the latter’s proposals on restricting antibiotic use in meat production.

A proposed theory published by the FDA earlier in the year said that by using antibiotics in meat production the effectiveness of “important microbials for treating disease in humans” would be less effective. Yet according to the AFBF, the FDA’s proposals are based on an “unproven theory” and have not demonstrated whether or not preventing the use of antibiotics in meat production will have any effect on treating diseases in humans.

AFBF president Bob Stallman explained that while he agreed human antibiotic resistance is a “serious and growing” problem, he is now “extremely concerned with FDA actions, which seem to indicate the agency is basing complex animal health policies on theory, rather than sound scientific studies”.

Lack of evidence

The AFBF has said the FDA’s intent is to reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock without “fully understanding” what it could do to public health. It added that there have been no peer-reviewed scientific studies to support the theory that judicious use of antibiotics in livestock reduces the results of antibiotics in humans.

Stallman added: “Antibiotics in livestock are currently used carefully in a highly-regulated process. The FDA has exercised, and continues to exercise, the authority to review every animal health product, including antibiotics, prior to approval, and at periodic intervals after the product is on the market.”

Now, the AFBF says, new policies surrounding antibiotics need to be looked at with more evidence and be reflective of modern agriculture production. Stallman said: “The limitation or elimination of animal antibiotic use in the livestock industry will have negative economic and animal health consequences.

“Food animal producers have relied on the benefits of antibiotics for many years to keep animals healthy, reduce environmental impact on land and resources, and provide consumers with an abundant supply of safe and affordable meat and poultry. Any changes in availability of these products must be undertaken carefully to reduce unnecessary negative impacts to animals, producers and veterinarians.”