Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Ag Commits to Curb Antibiotics


by Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) — The use of key medical antibiotics in livestock and poultry production will be further reduced under a federal rule rolled out Tuesday.

The White House convened a forum on antibiotic stewardship with representatives from more than 150 food companies, retailers, animal-health professionals and medical professionals. Highlighted were commitments from attendees over the next five years, which should “slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections.”

The Food and Drug Administration finalized changes to the Veterinary Feed Directive on Tuesday as another strategy to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock raised for food. The rule requires licensed veterinarians to oversee the use of such antibiotics in livestock feed.

The goal of these efforts is to reduce the level of drug-resistant bacteria, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate causes two million illnesses, and about 23,000 deaths each year in the United States.

As part of the Obama administration announcement, major pharmaceutical firms agreed to work closer with veterinarians and feed mills to adopt the FDA guidance regarding key medical antibiotics. That includes eliminating growth-promotion use and ensuring veterinarian oversight. Elanco Animal Health, Merck Animal Health and Zoetis all agreed to increasing research or educational programs to scale back the use of such antibiotics purely for livestock or poultry growth.

The White House also cited commitments from major livestock and poultry farms, food processors and retailers that have already taken actions or are moving in the direction of weaning their production off key medical antibiotics for growth production. Among the major players cited by the White House were Walmart, Tyson Foods, Smithfield, McDonald's and Foster Farms, all of which have announced policies to reduce or eliminate the use of human antibiotics in food they produce or sell.

Among some of the commitments:

Tyson Foods will eliminate human antibiotics from its chicken broilers by September 2017. The company also is working with farmers in beef, pork and turkey supply chains to reduce the use of antibiotics.

Pilgrim's Pride has announced it would eliminate antibiotics used for human medicine from its chicken operations, and eliminate all antibiotics for about one-quarter of its production by 2019.

Smithfield already prohibits the use of key medical antimicrobials for growth production for feed efficiency. Smithfield is working with universities to find alternatives to antibiotics for its swine operations.

Foster Farms announced just this week it would eliminate using antibiotics used to treat human illnesses in its chicken production.

Antibiotic use is a major topic of discussion for producers in all the major meat sectors. The World Pork Expo, which begins Wednesday in Des Moines, will focus heavily on the FDA directive and growing trends among the major processors to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics.

The North American Meat Institute noted its leaders participated in the White House conference on Tuesday and that the industry is committed to making changes to reduce the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“The White House event is an important opportunity to bring together leaders from human and animal medicine to address one of the most complex challenges facing medical doctors and veterinarians,” said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “We hope it will foster a stronger understanding of antibiotic resistance and help lead to meaningful steps to best ensure both human and animal health.”

The White House executive order includes a directive to federal cafeterias around the country to contract with vendors who produce meat from livestock and poultry raised according to responsible antibiotic policies “to the extent such an option is available and cost effective.”

By 2020, each federal agency will develop a strategy for contracting with vendors that meet requirements for antibiotic use for livestock and poultry similar to the cafeteria rules.

Moreover, the White House got commitments from major hospital systems and long-term care facilities to also better manage and control the prescription of antibiotics and improve stewardship practices at the facilities to reduce antibiotic resistance.




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