World Health Organization calls for restrictions on use of antibiotics in food animal production

Henrietta Brewer
November 8, 2017

"Its call for stopping the use of antibiotics that are critically important in human medicine for treating infected animals is antithetical to pork farmers' and veterinarians' moral obligation to care for their pigs".

The world health Organization (WHO) urged on Tuesday the farmers not to use antibiotics if the animals are healthy, to prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistance to these drugs.

According to the World Health Organisation, about 80% of total consumption of medically important antibiotics is in the animal sector, largely for growth promotion in healthy animals.

Infections like pneumonia, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis, among others, have become harder to treat because the usual course of antibiotics are less effective.

The director general of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, underlined the importance of preserving effective antibiotics, saying: "A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak".

"Strong, sustained action across all sectors is vital if we are to turn back the tide of antimicrobial resistance and keep the world safe", said Ghebreyesus.

Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA acting chief scientist, said, "The WHO guidelines are not in alignment with USA policy and are not supported by sound science".

The WHO is calling on governments to follow the example set by the Netherlands and Denmark, which have prohibited the use of antibiotics on animals in order to make the grow faster, or prevent disease, NPR reports.

Prevention uses of antibiotics involve administering antimicrobial drugs to animals that aren't exhibiting clinical signs of disease but that likely will get disease if a drug isn't administered. The list groups all antibiotics now used in humans and animals into three categories - "important", "highly important" and "critically important" - based on their importance to human medicine.

Moreover, WHO demand that the antibiotics given to sick animals to be selected from among those identified by the WHO as the "least important" to human health. In the United States, major meat processor Tyson Foods Inc has stopped using antibiotics to produce its retail line of chicken.

Namibia was the first African nation to ban the routine use of antibiotics in its beef industry 26 years ago. Animal agricultural groups were quick to point out that U.S. farmers are taking a judicious look at antibiotic use, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's acting chief scientist echoed similar thoughts in a statement later in the day Tuesday.

"A ban on disease prevention uses of antibiotics in food-animal production being advocated by the World Health Organization would be ill-advised and wrong". This move marked the EU's final step in phasing out antibiotics used for non-medical purposes. The guidelines, issued November 7, incorporate this objective into its recommendations for antibiotic use in agriculture.

Other reports by iNewsToday