Rationale for responsible use

The efficacy of antibiotics in treating human disease is seriously compromised by their use in livestock production to promote growth or to compensate for the effects of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. While any use of antibiotics can potentially contribute to the development of bacterial resistance, the routine use that is common on American farms has hastened this process.[1] Most of the antibiotics sold in the U.S.—70 percent—are used in food animal production.[2] People who eat meat and poultry and people who do not are equally affected because drug resistant bacteria can spread beyond animals and into produce and the environment. Excessive agricultural use of antibiotics has resulted in a perilous situation that, if not soon contained, will profoundly affect the future well-being of today’s children. The World Health Organization warns of a “post-antibiotic era” and acknowledges the routine antimicrobials in vast numbers of healthy animals use on farms as a culprit.[3] Other major health authorities are in strong agreement with this position.[4] FOCUS and Pew recognize the value of some antibiotic applications, in very limited circumstances, for the treatment of certain illnesses in food animal production. Responsible antibiotic use helps protect medically important drugs and promotes better animal husbandry.

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013”(September 2013)

[2] Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, “2011 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals” (September 2014)

[3]  World Health Organization, “WHO’s First Global Report on Antibiotic Resistance Reveals Serious, Worldwide Threat to Public Health” (April 2014)

[4]  These include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Preventative Medicine, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Consumers Union, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Institute of Medicine.

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