Meeting Presents Facts on Use of Antibiotics

US - Livestock and poultry groups hosted educational briefings yesterday (23 February) to share the facts about the importance of tools like antibiotics in raising healthy food animals.
calendar icon 24 February 2010
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The informational sessions were co-hosted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association through beef checkoff funding, the National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Milk Producers Federation, National Turkey Federation, American Meat Institute and National Meat Association.

The briefings were held in cooperation with US Reps. David Scott, Randy Neugebauer, Zack Space and Roy Blunt and by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). Top livestock and poultry health experts from across the country presented information to attendees.

Dr Guy Loneragan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at West Texas A&M University, and presenter at the briefings, said: “Prompt and judicious use of efficacious antibiotics is critical for the successful treatment and, at times, control of specific bacterial diseases in cattle. Certain Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved antibiotics also enable us to significantly improve the efficiency of beef production. Maintaining access to FDA-approved safe and effective technologies, including animal health products, helps ensure both the health and resource efficiency of US herds and flocks.”

In addition to stringent federal regulations, responsible-use programmes have been developed specific to feed, livestock and poultry organisations to give feed companies and producers specific guidelines and assistance on the safe and proper use of antibiotics in health management systems.

Craig Rowles, DVM, said: “We use antibiotics judiciously and responsibly to protect the health of our herds and to produce safe pork. We know that a ban on antibiotics, like the one in Denmark, will have adverse affects on our pigs, will raise the cost of production and will not provide a benefit to public health.”

Despite the unsubstantiated allegations by activist groups, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that shows the use of antibiotics on farms contributes significantly to an increase in antibiotic resistance in humans. In fact, a growing body of evidence shows just the opposite; namely, the responsible, professional use of these products keeps animals healthy and enhances animal welfare while not contributing to resistance.

Dr Timothy Cummings, clinical poultry professor for the Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine at Mississippi State University, said: “Taking FDA-approved animal drugs off the market would leave farmers and veterinarians with very limited options for preventing and controlling disease in livestock and poultry, which would have serious repercussions for animal health and preventing foodborne disease, with the strong likelihood that there would be no improvement in human health. It's absolutely vital that any decisions about the care of animals and the safety of our food be based on sound science rather than unsubstantiated concerns.”

According to Dr Leon Weaver, a veterinarian and dairy farmer from Montpelier, Ohio: “The US dairy industry conducts more than 3.3 million tests each year on all milk entering dairy plants to ensure that antibiotics are kept out of the milk supply. According to the most recent US Food and Drug Administration data, less than one tanker in 3,800 tests positive for any animal drug residues, including antibiotics. In those rare cases, any milk that tests positive is disposed of immediately and does not get into the food supply."

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