Two recent attempts to ban antibiotics used in the U.S. for growth promotion in livestock are being fueled by recent politically motivated actions in Europe and are not based on science.
The United Nation's World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that the use of antibiotics for growth promotion be discontinued, after reviewing Denmark's ban.
The WHO presumes that the ban will increase “consumer confidence” in meat products and that “likely” human health benefits will occur, says the Coalition for Animal Health (CAH), coordinated by the Animal Health Institute.
A recent article on the European ban on growth-promoting antibiotics and its consequences for human and animal health was published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. It says Europe's removal of antibiotics has led to a major increase in animal disease as well as antibiotics also used in human medicine.
The article cites published reports that the ban has not reduced the prevalence of resistant enterococcal infections in humans.
CAH adds that the Denmark experiment “has jeopardized the health and well-being of its livestock, but has not demonstrated an improvement in human health.”
In a second move against antibiotics, Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), along with three members of the House of Representatives, have proposed legislation to ban routine feeding of eight classes of antibiotics to animals.
“The bill introduced by Senators Kennedy and Snowe is even less appropriate now than when a similar bill was introduced last year,” states a news release from CAH. “In the past year, the Food and Drug Administration has introduced new requirements for animal drug sponsors to demonstrate that antibiotics used will not contribute to antibiotic resistance. This science-based risk assessment will be applied to all new and existing products, not just the few compounds singled out in this legislation.”
CAH adds the Agriculture Department has also launched a new program to “produce meaningful data on the relationship between antibiotic use and antibiotic-resistant bacteria on raw meat.”
Evidence demonstrates the U.S. approach to approving and using antibiotics based on science is working, says CAH. The rates of resistant foodborne bacteria in humans, the incidence of bacteria on raw meat and the levels of foodborne illness in the U.S. are all dropping, according to government reports.