U.S. Agricutural Research Service
Livestock industry groups contend there will be minimal impact from the Food and Drug Administration's new guidelines on antibiotic use, although it could actually lead to more use of such drugs by pork producers.
Citing public health concerns, the government took steps to phase out nontherapeutic use of certain antibiotics in animals processed for meat. The FDA has asked pharmaceutical companies to stop labeling drugs important for treating illness in humans as acceptable for growth promotion in animals.
Drug company Zoetis, a leading manufacturer of animal antibiotics, has already said it will comply.
Groups including the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the National Chicken Council praised the spirit of collaboration with which the FDA approached the antibiotic issue and vowed to work within the new guidelines.
"This only affects medically important antibiotics for human health (used) for feed efficiency and growth promotion, so I think of it as a narrow subset of a broader set," NCBA spokesman Chase Adams said. "We use very, very few of those in the cattle industry for growth promotion and feed efficiency."
Only about 5 percent of the antibiotics used by pork producers is for feed efficiency and growth promotion, but the drugs have been an important safeguard for piglets who've just been weaned and are more susceptible to bacterial infections, said Dave Warner, spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council.
As a result, producers may be forced later to use stronger doses of antibiotics to treat illnesses caused by bacteria that is naturally in the gut of pigs, Warner said.
"Antibiotics are not the only way of keeping animals healthy," he acknowledged. "There's genetics, there is the feed and things they can do there, and certainly the environment in which the animals live. All those things will be taken into consideration now. We may just need to look at additional things that need to be done in those areas to compensate for the loss of those antibiotic uses that are going to be phased out.
"There will be changes" on the farm, he said. "But it's the law of the land and we'll have to abide by that."
In the broiler chicken industry, a majority of the antibiotics employed by growers are not used by human and don't have the potential for increasing resistance in humans, asserted Ashley Peterson, the National Chicken Council's vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs.
In addition to the guidelines, the FDA proposed a directive that all antibiotics given to feed animals are done so under the supervision of a veterinarian. Livestock groups say this is already done in most cases.
Federal regulators and members of Congress have expressed concerns for years about the use of antibiotics in the livestock industry, which some say contributes to a resistance to the drugs in people. Others, however, say the amount of antibiotics given to livestock is miniscule when compared to the amount humans routinely receive.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association: http://www.beefusa.org
National Pork Producers Council: http://www.nppc.org
National Chicken Council: http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org