WHO proposes ending antibiotics for prevention in food animals

The World Health Organization is proposing ending the use of antibiotics in food animals for prevention and growth promotion. In the recently published “WHO Guidelines on Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals,” the WHO says that reducing antibiotic use can reduce antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food animals by up to 39%.

The guidelines make a number of recommendations including:
• Overall reduction in use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals.|
• Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for growth promotion.
• Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for prevention of infectious diseases that have not yet been clinically diagnosed.
• Antimicrobials classified as critically important for human medicine should not be used for control of the dissemination of a clinically diagnosed infectious disease identified within a group of food-producing animals.
• Medically important antimicrobials that are not currently used in food production should not be used in the future in food production including in food-producing animals or plants.

The WHO’s new guidelines acknowledge that farms would be justified in giving an antibiotic to healthy animals if a veterinarian determines that “there is a high risk of spread of a particular infectious disease.”

USDA disagrees with WHO’s new guidelines. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA acting chief scientist, says “The WHO guidelines are not in alignment with U.S. policy and are not supported by sound science. The recommendations erroneously conflate disease prevention with growth promotion in animals.

“The WHO previously requested that the standards for on-farm antibiotic use in animals be updated through a transparent, consensus, science-based process of CODEX. However, before the first meeting of the CODEX was held, the WHO released these guidelines, which according to language in the guidelines are based on ‘low-quality evidence,’ and in some cases, ‘very low-quality evidence.’

“Under current Food and Drug Administration policy, medically important antibiotics should not be used for growth promotion in animals. In the U.S., the FDA allows for the use of antimicrobial drugs in treating, controlling and preventing disease in food-producing animals under the…

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