Banning antibiotics in food animals could harm both human and animal health, according to a new peer-reviewed article.

There is little to no scientific evidence to suggest that the use of antibiotics in food animals affects human health, says the report published last month in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

“The scientific evidence shows that the actual risk of transfer of antibiotic-resistant organisms from animals to humans caused by the use of antibiotics in food animals is extremely small and in some cases zero,” says Ian Phillips, MD, principal author and professor emeritus, University of London.

“The European Union applied the ‘Precautionary Principle’ and set aside scientific evidence, and so made decisions about antibiotics that have in fact damaged animal health and not provided any benefits to human health,” he says. We need to advance science and risk assessments to help make sound, evidence-based and balanced decisions in the U.S. and around the world.”

Europe's ban on antibiotic growth promoters has not reduced antibiotic resistance levels in humans there. U.S. data shows that levels of antibiotic-resistant foodborne pathogens are generally declining, as are the number of cases caused by foodborne bacteria, says the Animal Health Institute (AHI).

“Continued use of antibiotics in food animals is important to animal health and welfare and food safety,” says report co-author John Waddell, DVM, Sutton, NE. “We will continue to follow the principles of prudent use and rely on surveillance and risk assessment to ensure safe use of antibiotics to keep animals healthy.”