Debate About How and Whether to use Antibiotics in Livestock

By Chris Adams

A leading expert on the proper use of antibiotics in farm animals led National Press Foundation fellows though an overview of the contentious issue, describing current farm practices as well as government plans to regulate them.

Dr. Mike Apley is a professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Kansas State University and in 2016 was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

The issue is important because, as the presidential advisory council says, the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria “represents a serious threat to public health and the economy.” And the use of those drugs in farm animals can contribute to that problem.

Apley reviewed the general terminology, including the use of antibiotics for helping livestock grow more rapidly. That’s the use that is most contentious, and that won’t be allowed after Jan. 1, 2017.

He reviewed the other categories that will still be allowed, with a veterinarian prescription, including the use of antibiotics for the prevention of disease, for the control of disease and for treatment of disease. And he detailed the use, drug by drug, of antibiotics in humans and animals, and how that has changed over time.

He pointed journalists to several resources:

  • The Food and Drug Administration’s guidance document that spells out its recommendations for proper use of antibiotics on the farm. (For a list of all FDA documents on the issue, click here.)
  • The FDA document that defines which antibiotics are considered medically important.
  • Annual reports to Congress that detail the use of antibiotics in animals, by drug and volume. The reports stem from the Animal Drug User Fee Act, which was signed into law in 2008.

This program is funded by Monsanto, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Pork Board, and the Organic Trade Association. NPF is solely responsible for the content.

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