Combating Antibiotic Resistance

Combating Antibiotic Resistance

June 15, 2016

Livestock producers will soon have to comply with regulation in the Veterinary Feed Directive, in the interest of combating antibiotic resistance. Experts share how this complicated topic is changing the way both producers and consumers view animal health.

Antibiotic resistance is not a new threat, but it is a real one. Dr. Richard Raymond, Food Safety and Public Health consultant said, "Antibiotic resistance is very real, is very increasing, and more people are dying from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year in this country. It's not to be belittled; it's a real concern to everybody that has to take an antibiotic."

In 2014, the World Health Organization came out with a 232-page report on the subject, with four of those pages dedicated to agriculture. Raymond explains what those four pages contained that especially stood out to him. "In those four pages, these two quotes I remember, stressing to me the fact that we don't know what causes antibiotic resistance: 'The magnitude of transmission from animal reservoirs to humans remains unknown,' and 'more data are needed to identify priority areas for intervention.' So the people calling for intervention, saying that this recent FDA announcement is not going far enough...If the WHO says we need data before we can even identify what to do, how can consumer activists say we know what to do, we need control and prevention of using these antibiotics."

Even without the data, the FDA did intervene by enacting the Veterinary Feed Directive, which will require prescriptions for many commonly used over-the-counter livestock medications that are also used for human health. 

William Flynn, of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, said, "The position we took is it is really not absolutely necessary to be using these critically important antibiotics that are important for human medicine for growth promotion purposes."

While these changes increase oversight for both producers and veterinarians, it also increases transparency between producers and consumers. Dr. Leah Dorman, of Phibro Animal Health, explained, "They [consumers] not only want transparency, they expect transparency, and they want to know more about where their food is grown and how it’s raised. It provides us the perfect opportunity to talk to them – talk to them about what we do, and why we do it."

By informing consumers of the facts, more will understand the role producers play in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Dorman said, "We’re doing our part to insure we are using antibiotics responsibility and that is a very important message to get out to consumers."

Before the V.F.D. goes into effect, experts recommend livestock producers meet with vets to review new animal health protocols. It is also important to discuss prescriptions that are affected by V.F.D. laws and to make sure to go through record-keeping requirements and strategies.

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