Food producers rely on science to produce a safe, secure and affordable food supply to an ever-increasing population. Modern agriculture systems protect animals from harsh weather conditions and disease while improving food quality. Antibiotics are a judiciously-used tool employed by farmers and ranchers with veterinarian oversight to further their goal of raising healthy animals.
The AP article dangerously blurs the line between opinion and fact. Although the authors quote an unsubstantiated estimate that 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are administered to livestock, they fail to acknowledge that nearly half of the total estimated amount is made up of ionophores and other compounds not used in human medicine that do not impact human resistance. The article also inaccurately suggests that animal feed is constantly 'laced' with antibiotics. In reality, each antibiotic is administered according to the specifications of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved label that clearly indicates the number of doses and duration of use.
Although most scientists agree that improper use of antibiotics in human medicine is the greatest contributing factor to bacterial resistance in humans, added protective measures have been implemented to ensure that antibiotic use in livestock and poultry does not affect human health. All antibiotics undergo a stringent approval process, including risk assessments by the FDA, and are subject to food safety monitoring and surveillance programs. Farmers and ranchers also follow species-specific guidelines for safe and proper use of antibiotics in their health management systems.
The decision to limit the use of antibiotics in food production should not be taken lightly. Scott Hurd, DVM, Ph.D., former deputy under secretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has warned that "decisions made without careful assessments can lead to harmful health risks, as well as unnecessary animal suffering."
Reprinted in part from the Animal Agriculture Alliance