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

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid