Despite charges by proponents in favor of a ban on antibiotics in food animal production, a government report issued last Friday does not show America’s livestock and poultry producers use massive amounts of antibiotics.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) report includes data on sales of all antibiotics intended for use in farm animals. In 2009, 28.7 million pounds of antimicrobial drugs were sold; nearly 29% of that amount was ionophores, compounds which are not used in human medicine.

Livestock industry opponents are pushing the theory that antibiotic use in food animals leads to an increase in antibiotic resistance in humans, meaning their use in livestock production must be restricted. Several groups back current legislation to ban the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry that prevent or control diseases, feed conversion and promote weight gain.

“Pork producers use antibiotics responsibly, under the direction of a veterinarian, to protect public health and the health of their animals and to produce safe food,” says Howard Hill, DVM, member of the board of directors of the National Pork Producers Council. “The FDA report does not show that livestock producers overuse antibiotics, and it doesn’t show that they are being irresponsible. It simply shows that 28.7 million pounds of antibiotics were sold in the United States.”

Randal Singer, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, has studied antibiotic uses and antibiotic resistance for 12 years and says, “all uses of antibiotics improve animal health, and these improvements in animal health can substantially improve human health.”

The FDA report was required under the 2008 Animal Drug User Fee Act. It did not include data on the quantities of drugs used to treat sick animals, to prevent or control diseases and to improve feed efficiency and weight gain.

“Despite the fact that the FDA report lacks the data, Hill says, “several groups continue to peddle junk science on the percentage of antibiotics used for ‘non-therapeutic’ reasons, which include prevention and control of diseases, and to make comparisons of antibiotics used in food animals with those used in humans.”

More information about antibiotic use in pork production can be found at www.factsaboutpork.org.