Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

“Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” Likely to Produce Dialogue on Animal Drugs

This week marks the fifth annual “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week,” so named by the federal government in 2008. Before it’s over, a dialogue could break out between urban consumers and food animal producers over agriculture’s use of antibiotics and growing concerns about antibiotic resistance.

First, a quick look at a couple of the main players.

Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, runs a “Meat Without Drugs” campaign, asking retailers to stop selling meat and poultry raised on diets that include antibiotics. It blames antibiotics used in animal agriculture for both drug-resistant superbugs and making antibiotics less effective for people.

The 12-year-old National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA), based in Colorado Springs, CO, represents animal agriculture in the U.S. on issues like antibiotic resistance. It’s putting on a national conference this week in Columbus, Ohio because it says it wants to “begin the dialogue to a one health approach to antimicrobial use and resistance.”

Dr. Leah Dorman, director of food programs in the Center for Food and Animal Issues at the Ohio Farm Bureau, says the one health approach is like a triangle with the three points being public health, animal health and environmental health.

“You know, whether it’s disease, whether it’s antibiotic use, you cannot just focus on one, because its affects the other two,” Dorman said. “So it’s very important we look at this (antibiotic resistance) issue very holistically and think about it in all three of those aspects.”

At the Nov. 13-15 conference in Columbus, Dorman said the nation’s agricultural community will be “collaborating in a conversation about antibiotic use and resistance and we are encouraging those additional perspectives so we can begin working towards that path forward.”

For its part, Consumers Union marked antibiotics week by renewing its demands for reductions in the use of antibiotics in food animal production. It says overuse of antibiotics on the farm is a major contributor to antibiotic resistance, a worldwide public health threat.

CU also calls on doctors and patients to work together to improve antibiotic use, an acknowledgement of the human role in antibiotic resistance.

“Doctors and patients need to be much more careful about how they use antibiotics if we’re going to preserve their power,” said Jean Halloran, CU’s director of food policy.

Halloran said it is also time to “get smart about the overuse of antibiotics in food animals.”

“It’s time to stop the daily feeding of antibiotics to healthy food animals which makes these life-saving medications less effective for people,” she said.

CU collected half a million signatures on a petition asking Trader Joe’s to stop selling meat and poultry “raised on antibiotics,” but so far has not gotten a meeting with the retailer on the issue.

It also supports legislation sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) to generate more data on antibiotic use on farms.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that it wants the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animal agriculture phased out over the next three years on a voluntary basis.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010 said “there is strong scientific evidence of a link between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in humans.”

A White Paper developed out of last year’s NIAA symposium does not necessarily dispute that link, but says the use of antibiotics in food animal production is a complex issue that is often over-simplified.

CU spokesman Michael McCauley told Food Safety News that his organization does not have anyone attending the Columbus meeting. However, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is sponsoring a series of panel discussions in New York City on Thursday and CU’s Halloran will participate in discussion on antibiotics in animal agriculture there.

© Food Safety News
  • ScottHurd

    It is unfortunate that no one from CU is attending the NIAA meeting. It does not sound like much of a dialogue to me……Does anyone in CU or the other groups REALLY want to solve a problem or just push one potential solution?

  • doc_raymond

    The FDA wants the use of antibiotics that are also used in human medicine fazed out as growth promoters in three years.  Important difference, since 40% of antibiotics used in animal husbandry are not used in human medicine at all, and they can still be used as growth promoters in three years. 

    • Doc Raymond

      Supposedly resistance to one drug can develop in bacteria because of use of another related type of drug. This publication by the Union of Concerned Scientists discusses resistance to one drug leading to resistance to another that is chemically related. http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture/prescription-for-trouble.htmlThe real issue is that the consequences are serious enough that the risk of continued use for growth just is not sustainable. And preventative use as a way of making up for shortcomings in livestock practices really isn’t sustainable, either. 

  • Susan Rudnicki

    Mr Raymond—your assertion is not backed up with any data or documentation, so why would you think we could not research this ourselves?   More importantly, why would these emminent scientists sign their names to this statement on the dangers and overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture, if what you said had one iota of truth to it ?

    • doc_raymond

      Susan, I think maybe you had too much caffiene this morning, or maybe y0u are just exciteable, but to say I had not one iota of truth in my assertion is typical of the inflammatory rhetoric when debating the use of antibiotics in animals raised for food. My statement is based on facts, and does not down play the importance of judicious use of abx in animals. What is does is simply clarity a statement in Mr. Flynn’s post that not ALL antibiotics are being phased out as growth promoters, just those that are used in human medicine.  All you have to do to verify this fact is go tgo http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm299802.htm and read the three documents issued by the FDA on April 13, 2012. And while at the FDA web site, look up their 2010 Summary Report on antimicrobials sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals. But for the other readers looking for data AND documentation, which susan accuses me of having none, you will find at this site Table 1, which clearly shows around 11 million kilograms of antibiotics sold for use in food-producing animals, of which exactly 3,821,138 kilograms were Ionophores, an antibiotic never approved for use in human medicine. Susan, no apologies necessary, but in the future please try and be a little more objective and base your claims on biologic science, not political science and false rhetoric.

  • husna

    those conducting a dialogue/panel discussion need to think “outside the box”.
    It would not be a bad idea to critically examine the practices/policies of the European
    Union and other fellow scientists across the globe in regards to antibiotic
    resistance and potential hazards to human illnesses.




  • Susan Rudnicki


    Raymond—please explain why you do not have to link your assertions on
    this issue to any documentation or data, as this link would give the
    lie to what you pass off as fact.    I think scientists working in this
    field have a lot more legitimacy, as their published statement on the
    issue of antibiotic overuse in animal Ag. attests.

    • doc_raymond

      Are you implying I am not a scientist working in this area susan?  

      • Susan Rudnicki

         Where are your citations?   I don’t know what you are, of course, as you do not know “what” I am.   It isn’t relevant—state your sources for the assertions you make regarding classes of drugs used in animal ag. having no cross-over to those used for human conditions. 

  • doc_raymond

    I think we know the answer to your question.

  • Susan Rudnicki

     Sir Raymond—it is not necessary to diagnose my mental state or the amount of coffee you believe I may have taken as a smart aleck lead- in to your remarks.     I do not find a PR release from the FDA  a suitably professional citation, as you are using it.   Their “voluntary” measures to “encourage” the animal ag. industry to dial back the tonnage of antibiotics they have become dependent on strikes the watchful citizen as kowtowing to a powerful lobby.    USDA and FDA are notoriously enmeshed with a profit making machine we have come to know as Big Ag and Big Pharma.   My brother has been in the FFAS at USDA for 32 years, and I have come to know its machinations very intimately.     

    • doc_raymond

      You asked for data or documentation==I provided it. If you don’t like the Feds so be it. At least now you know my source of data, but still you diss it. Pretty typical in these kind of discussions. 

  • Susan Rudnicki

     This analysis by Tom Phillpot expresses the important reservations I have for the unscientific, industry subservient , deeply flawed motivations of this FDA “plan”–

    Now to the plan itself. Here it is (also from the FDA’s press release):

    Under this new voluntary initiative, certain antibiotics would not
    be used for so-called “production” purposes, such as to enhance growth
    or improve feed efficiency in an animal. These antibiotics would still
    be available to prevent, control or treat illnesses in food-producing
    animals under the supervision of a veterinarian.

    Okay, let’s unpack some things here. Currently, antibiotics have
    three uses on factory livestock farms. The first is growth promotion.
    For reasons that are little understood, when animals get small daily
    doses of the the stuff, they grow faster. The second is disease
    prevention. When you stuff animals together in filthy conditions, they
    tend to get sick and pass diseases among themselves rapidly. So the
    industry likes to dose them regularly to keep them from getting sick.
    The third use is disease treatment—an animal comes down with a bug and
    gets treated with antibiotics.

    So the FDA is stating its intention to phase out the first use and
    leave the other two intact. But preserving the second use, prevention,
    leaves a gaping loophole. First of all, how can anyone distinguish
    giving animals small daily doses of antibiotics to prevent disease
    from giving them small daily doses to promote growth? The industry can
    simply claim it’s using antibiotics preventively and go on about its
    business—continuing to reap the benefits of growth promotion and
    continuing to menace public health by breeding resistance.

    by preserving “disease prevention” as a legit use, the FDA allows the
    industry to keep on throwing pharmaceuticals at—instead of forcing it
    to clean up—filthy and cramped conditions that allow bacterial
    pathogens to thrive on factory farms.

    Then there’s the voluntary part. I mean, uh, the program is voluntary.
    As in, optional. The vet-pharmaceutical industry exists to sell its
    products; the meat industry enjoys the antibiotic-soaked status quo.
    What’s the incentive to change?

    • Not disagreeing with you, but this is a clear explanation of how antibiotic use can increase growth in livestock. 


      I don’t agree with antibiotic use for growth, but it is nice to know how it works and why. 

      • Susan Rudnicki

         I am aware of the physiological reasons antibiotics for growth enhancement work.   And though it may be nice to understand it, it is not essential.    The unintended consequences and the livestock industries strongarm tactics to continue the usage are reprehensible.   Consumer awareness and action for the safety and diversity and purity of food is the essential ingredient for changing a corporate dominated arena of profit driven food production.

        • In there we do disagree. 

          I don’t have to understand the concepts to the same level as the experts, but I have to be aware of why the livestock producer uses antibiotics for growth if I’m going to debate with him or her about not using the antibiotics in this way. 

          Expressing umbrage is not an effective argument or persuasive tool. 

      • Susan Rudnicki

         The quote from Tom Philpott may say the growth promotion is not well understood, but that is more his lack of knowledge, not mine.

  • Susan Rudnicki

    Also, exposing the weakness of the “voluntary” guidelines for industrial animal ag is this

    , a federal judge has ruled
    that the agency’s voluntary rules are insufficient. How the FDA will
    negotiate the welter of interests at play—the meat industry’s push to
    keep the rules lenient, advocates’ demands for a crackdown, and
    judicial pressure—remains to be seen.