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Exclusive interview

OIE likely to ban growth-promoting antibiotics

By Melodie Michel , 20-Jan-2012
Last updated on 23-Jan-2012 at 12:48 GMT

OIE director Bernard Vallat
OIE director Bernard Vallat

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is likely to ban the prophylactic use of antibiotics on livestock in the next few years, OIE director Bernard Vallat has said.

In an exclusive interview with GlobalMeatNews, Vallat mentioned that there had been no consensus so far on such a ban between OIE members, but that considering the growing number of countries that were implementing it, a change of policy was to be expected from the organisation.

“There is still scientific controversy over the benefits of this ban and over the negative effects of prophylactic use of antibotics, but there is clearly a global trend towards the ban,” he said. “More and more countries, though not a majority, are adopting this position, which is significant, and we can expect the OIE to go in that direction in a few years – at least that’s my personal prediction.”

Vallat added that the EU’s ban on growth-promoting antibiotics had been adopted as a precaution, but that most of the OIE’s other members had taken a more relaxed approach on the issue. He said: “[The EU] analysed the risk and went ahead with the ban. They are practically the only ones within our member countries that have gone this far. It’s a matter of risk analysis, they clearly chose to take a precautionary approach.”

During the interview, Vallat stressed the importance of antibiotics in livestock for food security, adding that a more responsible use was needed, but that a complete ban would be a bad idea. “Antibiotics are a treasure for animal health and we need to preserve it. The use of antibiotics is essential to guarantee food security and meet global demand for animal production. To maintain the benefits (...), we need to develop policies of cautious use of antibiotics, which is why our organisation has drawn up norms that we put forward to all our members,” he said.

He also pointed out that the responsibility of farm use of antibiotics in human antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was very limited. “It is very clear that the issues of antimicrobial resistance that exist today for humans are the result of antibiotics use in human medicine and in hospitals. Everybody acknowledges the fact that the weight antibiotics misuse in animal medicine has in human AMR is very low. Our main concern is animal health, and we want to avoid AMR in animals first and foremost, because it is essential that we are able to keep using antibiotics to maintain animal health. Of course, by doing this, we indirectly avoid the rare cases of negative consequences in human medicine,” Vallat added.