Guidelines from the global health body suggesting farmers should stop using antibiotics for growth and disease prevention have been strongly criticised by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).
“Denying pigs, cows and chickens necessary antibiotics would be unethical and immoral, leading to animal suffering and possibly death, and could compromise the nation’s food system,” the trade body said in a statement.
The rebuke comes after the WHO warned overuse and misuse of antibiotics on farms globally was contributing to rising levels of antibiotic resistance. Lack of antibiotics effective for treating medical conditions in people could be “as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak”, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO.
WHO’s plan would cause animal harm
The NPPC said it shared the concerns of the health organisation, but rejected plans recommending a scale-back of the meat industry’s use of a number of antibiotics. These include quinolones, cephalosporins, macrolides and ketolides, glycopeptides and colistin.
“The US pork industry’s goal is to reduce the need for antibiotics and it has devoted time and resources to that end, including adopting good antibiotic stewardship practices and studying alternatives to antibiotics,” said the NPPC.
“Simply reducing on-farm uses of antibiotics, as the WHO suggests, however, likely would have no effect on public health and would jeopardise animal health. Its call for stopping the use of antibiotics that are critically important in human medicine for treating infected animals is antithetical to pork farmers’ and veterinarians’ moral obligation to care for their pigs.”
Use of antibiotics in the US pork sector is compliant with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) directives that prohibit firms from using antibiotics important to human medicine for growth promotion purposes.
Industry experts also support federal efforts to track antibiotic resistance in foodborne bacteria from humans, retail meat and animals produced for food