Saturday, August 14, 2010


By now the topic of antibiotic use by the animal food industry is becoming increasingly a partisan issue with the industry and the consumer groups taking diametrically opposite views about the desirability or other wise of such practices. With increasing evidence emerging in Europe and other countries regarding evolution of highly drug resistant bacterial versions, a real situation is emerging where humans are left with little choice to treat serious infectious diseases due to ineffectiveness of most of the antibiotics available to the medical community.

The USDA, which normally defends agribusiness interests, recently asserted at a congressional hearing that there is a link between antibiotic use in animals and drug resistance in humans. That statement put the department on the same page as the FDA and the government's public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By targeting only drugs used for growth promotion, the FDA plan doesn't go far enough for supporters of the House bill, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which would follow the Danish example and end all non-therapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics. Drugs could only be given to ill animals. "If we want to truly preserve antibiotics for future generations ... then we need to look beyond growth promotion," said Laura Rogers, project director of the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, an advocacy group. The drug manufacturers contend there's insufficient evidence that drug-resistance is leaping from livestock to consumers. "It does not happen enough that we can find it and measure it," Richard Carnevale, a vice president of the manufacturers' trade group, the Animal Health Institute, said in testimony to the House committee. "We cannot say it does not happen, but we can say it is uncommon." Scott Hurd, a veterinarian at Iowa State University who served in the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service under former President George W. Bush, has often defended the livestock industry. But he said he can't criticize the FDA's decision to restrict the use of medically important antibiotics as growth promoters. "Honestly, the days of the growth promoters are numbered," he said.

It is understandable that the manufacturers of antibiotics take the stand that there is insufficient scientific evidence to substantiate the view about drug resistance because of their pecuniary interest that makes them refute the scientific findings, though they ought to have in mind the safety of the consumers affected by this controversy. There is sufficient basis for the food safety authorities world over to put a stop to this unsafe practice by the industry. Antibiotics are better known as life saving drugs and it is common sense that they are allowed remain so.


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