Food Safety

International dialog proposes tighter controls on farm antibiotics

August 10, 2011
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The casual use of antibiotics on farms leads to antibiotic residue in the meat consumed by humans, decreasing the efficacy of antibiotics when they’re actually needed and causing allergic reactions in some people.

Consumer organizations representing both American and European consumers recently met in Brussels and approved a resolution calling on governments to ask farms to reduce their unnecessary use of antimicrobials in livestock to be used for food, according to a report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The resolution urges governments to ban the use of antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes in food-producing animals and to adopt policies requiring veterinarians to determine when the use of drugs is needed.

The resolution from The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) states that several factors contribute to the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, including the use of antibiotics in human medicine and their excessive use in animal husbandry. According to the resolution, “With regard to animal farming, antimicrobials are not just used to cure infections, but also routinely added to livestock feed and/or water to prevent infections in healthy animals and as growth promoters.”

According to the resolution, resistance to one antimicrobial can lead to resistance to other related antimicrobials. For example, bacteria resistant to Avoparcin, an antimicrobial used in animal feed, may also be resistant to Vancomycin, the most powerful antimicrobial used against Staphylococcus aureus. Sweden stopped the use Avoparcin in the beginning of the 1980s, and it was banned in the EU in 1997. The use of antimicrobial growth promoters encourages the colonization of resistant bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, etc. in the gut of animals.

The TACD resolution urges significantly reducing or eliminating the use in animals of drugs critically important to human medicine, along with a total ban on the non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in animal and food production. In addition, the resolution calls on governments to create and fund systems to monitor the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals. National surveillance systems should operate farm-to-table and integrate the findings of public health, veterinary and food safety laboratories.

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