The volume of antibiotics used in animals in the U.S. dropped nearly 8% in 2003 compared to 2002, according to new data from a survey of animal health companies.

In 2003, 20.2 million lb. of antibiotics were produced for use in farm and companion animals, down from 22 million lb. produced the previous year.

Data was collected from a survey of members of the Animal Health Institute (AHI), an organization representing companies that make medicines for farm animals and pets.

“Antibiotics, used carefully and judiciously to protect animal health, are an important component of our food safety system,” says Alexander S. Mathews, AHI president and CEO. “This annual data provides evidence of the careful use of these important products.”

There is also increasing evidence of the safety and importance of using antibiotics to keep food animals healthy, notes Mathews. A recent peer-reviewed publication has concluded that the risk of using antibiotics to keep food animals healthy is very small.