International Group Says Certain Antibiotics Should Not Be Used on Sick Livestock

Nov 9, 2017  | 3 min  | Ep4312

Among the list of issues faced by agriculture is the use of antibiotics to treat animals. There are those concerned increased use may create antibiotic resistant bacteria.

@BradfordKrantz has the latest. 

A top USDA scientist objected this week to a World Health Organization recommendation to impose a blanket ban on the use of so-called medically important antibiotics in livestock, including animals that have become ill.

Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA’s acting chief scientist, said in a press release that the WHO fused the issues of antibiotic use for growth promotion with use for disease prevention.

USDA agreed with the new WHO guidelines suggesting countries ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in livestock, noting that a recently enacted Food and Drug Administration policy already prohibits such practices. However, the new FDA rules do allow veterinarians to decide if livestock need certain antibiotics – including those prescribed for humans - to prevent, control or treat disease outbreaks.

The WHO acknowledged in its report its recommended blanket ban on these antibiotics was based on “very low quality evidence.” However, the organization argued the measure was justified because antibiotic overuse – both for humans and animals – is believed to exacerbate the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This phenomena can render some antibiotics useless against the targeted bacteria.

The U.S. prohibits the harvesting of animals for a specific period after treatment. A 2016 federal report revealed that only 0.2 percent of animals randomly tested at U.S. packing plants had higher-than-allowed levels of substances such as antibiotics.

WHO guidelines garnered support from some consumer and environmental advocacy groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council. Objections were raised by animal trade groups, like The National Pork Producers Council, which wrote:

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.”


For Market to Market, I’m Colleen Bradford Krantz.

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