Overview: Antibiotics Use in Animals Raised for Food
March 28, 2012 by USFRA
USFRA believes that farmers and ranchers and our partners must do what is in their power to keep their animals safe and healthy. And when animals are sick or at risk of becoming sick, they should be treated in adherence with evidence based standards of veterinary medicine in ways that don’t stress the animals or the environment and are in the best interest of long-term human health.
USFRA is made up of people in agriculture with a variety of perspectives and views. Most of USFRA’s farmers and ranchers choose to use antibiotics to humanely treat sick animals and to keep animals healthy. Some of our farmers choose not to use antibiotics regularly so they can market their products as “antibiotic free.” In addition, we have industry partners who develop, manufacture and market antibiotics.
Farmers and ranchers often consult veterinarians prior to treating their animals with antibiotics. In fact, many antibiotics require veterinarian prescription and oversight. In addition, farmers and ranchers may only use veterinary antibiotic medicines, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and in accordance with FDA Orders, guidances and requirements. FDA continues to monitor antibiotic medicines on a regular basis, to ensure the medicines are effective and safe for animals and their meat and milk products.
Consumers have many questions about antibiotic use in farm animals, and USFRA is committed to helping farmers and ranchers answer these questions and foster an open dialogue. USFRA believes that providing a safe, wholesome food supply begins with keeping animals healthy. Responsible antibiotic use is often the best choice to treat sick animals, as well as to prevent animals from getting sick or suffering. We support science-based, peer reviewed programs that are designed and monitored by veterinarians and animal care experts.
USFRA believes in practices that make our businesses stronger over time are those that focus on continuously improving the quality of our products. Today, farmers and ranchers are implementing new procedures to closely monitor the health and well-being of their animals.
Surprising Facts about Antibiotics
Here are some of the least known facts about antibiotic use in farm animals in America:
- Veterinarian Oversight: Producers consult with veterinarians about antibiotic use. In fact, veterinarian involvement is mandated for all antibiotics approved since 1988. (American Veterinary Medical Association. (2002). Judicious Use of Antimicrobials for Dairy Cattle Veterinarians. Retrieved from http://www.avma.org/issues/jtua/jtua_dairy.asp)
- All Milk Tested for Antibiotics: All milk is strictly tested for antibiotics on the farm and at the processing plant. Any milk that tests positive cannot be sold to the public. Likewise, all livestock animals must wait before a treated animal may be slaughtered to assure any antibiotics have cleared the animal’s system. Both meat and milk are rigorously monitored. (American Dairy Association and Dairy Council. (2003). Organic Milk FAQ. Retrieved from http://www.adadc.com/OrganicFAQ.pdf)
- Meat and Poultry for Food Are Rigorously Monitored By Law: Meat and poultry for human consumption must pass inspection and monitoring by FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service). Federal Meat Inspection Act http://www.fsis.usda.gov
- Many Antibiotics Sold for Animal Use Are Not Used to Treat Humans: According to FDA statistics, 35 percent of antibiotics sold for animal use are in classes not used in human medicine. And all antibiotics are carefully examined for any human health implications before approved and incorporated into labeling. This means they have no possibility of contributing to antibiotic resistance bacteria in people. (Animal Health Institute. (2012). Antibiotics in Livestock. Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from http://www.ahi.org/issues-advocacy/animal-antibiotics/antibiotics-in-livestock-frequently-asked-questions/)
- When Organic Animals Are Sick, They May be Treated with Antibiotics: When an animal raised for food on an organic farm becomes ill, organic livestock producers utilize natural remedies. If these remedies are ineffective then it must be given medical treatment including antibiotics if appropriate for the illness. Once an animal is treated with antibiotics, it cannot be sold as organic. (U.S. Department of Agriculture 7 CFR 205.238 (c)).
- FDA Approval Process Is Stringent: FDA has a stringent approval process for veterinary medicines and antibiotics – much like that for human medications. In fact, antibiotics for use in animals require the same testing as those used in humans, with the additional requirement that they must be tested to ensure meat and milk from the animal given the medicine will be safe for human consumption. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2011). From an Idea to the Marketplace: The Journey of an Animal Drug through the Approval Process. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm219207.htm)
- No Cases of Animal Antibiotic Use Leading to Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs: There has been no proven link to antibiotic treatment failure in humans due to antibiotics use in animals for consumption. (Hurd SH, Doores S, Hayes D, Mathew Am Maurer J, Silley P, Randall SS and Jones RN (2004). Public Health Consequences of Macrolide Use in Food Animals: A Deterministic Risk Assessment. Journal of Food Protection, 67( 5): 980–992.)