News / USA

US: Antibiotic Use in Livestock Harms People

Concerned about link between livestock antibiotic use and drug-resistant infections in people, US recommends ending some uses

Animals in many large livestock-raising operations around the world get a small but steady dose of certain antibiotics in their feed.
Animals in many large livestock-raising operations around the world get a small but steady dose of certain antibiotics in their feed.

Multimedia

Audio

U.S. health officials say there is unequivocal evidence of a link between overuse of antibiotics in healthy livestock and drug-resistant disease in people.

In a break from previous policy, they are recommending an end to the practice.

In nearly all the major livestock-producing countries in the world, farmers add small amounts of antibiotics to the animals' feed. It keeps them healthy and helps them grow better.

Public health groups have opposed the practice because bacteria continually exposed to antibiotics will eventually develop resistance to them.

Many causes

Antibiotic-resistant infections are one of the world's most serious health concerns. Many factors contribute to the rising incidence, including over-prescription of antibiotics by doctors and misuse among patients.

But routinely feeding the drugs to healthy livestock to improve growth is also contributing, public health groups say.

The livestock industry argues that it's a long way from farm to fork, and there's no evidence that feeding antibiotics to healthy animals is harming people.

Officials draw link

Ali Khan, a deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disagreed at a recent congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.

"There's unequivocal evidence [of a] relationship between use of antibiotics in animals and transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing adverse effects in humans," he said.

Khan pointed to numerous scientific studies from Europe, Canada, and the United States, as well as reports from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Institute of Medicine, that all show a link between veterinary use of antibiotics and higher risk of drug-resistant infections among humans.

At the same hearing, Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said that, in one of the best studies researchers used molecular fingerprinting to follow an outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria: "You actually can trace the specific bacteria around and they find that the resistant strains in humans match the resistant strains in the animals."

New position

These strong statements opposing the practice represent a new U.S. government position on the issue. The FDA recently issued new guidance to the livestock industry recommending they stop using antibiotics as growth promoters.

"This is a very important event," says Jorgen Schlundt, head of food safety at the World Health Organization. "And it's actually following the guidance that WHO already gave out where we suggested that countries should actually stop using antibiotics as growth promoters."

Until now, only the European Union has followed the WHO's suggestion, banning the practice in 2006. Schlundt says it remains common in other major livestock-producing countries.

Recommendation or regulation?

While the FDA's recommendations are seen as a step in the right direction, they are voluntary. Critics say that's not enough.

Schlundt says while countries vary in their appetite for regulation, "In our experience, regulation is probably needed in an area like this."

But others say more regulation would be a mistake. The livestock industry and the nation's leading veterinarians' group says the antibiotics are helping to prevent animal disease, which ultimately makes the food supply safer.

University of Minnesota epidemiology professor Randall Singer says a ban could do more harm than good.

"If we were to pull those antibiotics from disease prevention, we will see disease," he says. "And my fear is, as we see more disease, we'll end up with more problems in our food supply."

The CDC's Ali Khan and the FDA's Joshua Sharfstein said that fear is unfounded.

Congress is considering legislation that would ban certain antibiotics from animal use. But it faces strong opposition from farm-state lawmakers, and even its supporters say Congress is unlikely to pass the measure this year.

You May Like

Photogallery Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid