In a new technical report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says unnecessary use of antibiotics in food-producing animals is endangering medicine's ability to treat life-threatening infections in young patients.
The report, "Nontherapeutic Use of Antimicrobial Agents in Animal Agriculture: Implications for Pediatrics," calls antimicrobial drug resistance a growing public health crisis and points to a common farming practice as a contributing cause.
According to AAP, adding antibiotics to the feed of healthy livestock to promote growth, increase feed efficiency or prevent disease among herds often leaves the drugs ineffective when they are needed to treat infections in people.
The AAP report stresses the importance of preserving antibiotics to treat illness in humans and animals.
The report will appear in the December 2015 issue of Pediatrics (published online Nov. 16).
In response, the Animal Health Institute (AHI) explained that the AAP technical report "fails to recognize significant changes being made in the way antibiotics are used in food animals. It’s important for the public and the human health community to know the Food & Drug Administration has proposed and won universal cooperation on a policy to eliminate the growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics and to extend veterinary oversight to all remaining uses. This policy is due to be fully implemented by December 2016. As a result, medically important antibiotics used in food animals will be used only to fight disease under the supervision of a veterinarian.
"Once completed, antibiotics important for human health will be used in farm animals only for the therapeutic uses of disease treatment, control and prevention. These uses are classified by FDA as therapeutic because they are targeted at specific diseases or bacterium. There are differences between label claims for prevention and growth promotion. Growth promotion uses will be illegal once labels are changed according to FDA policy. Using antibiotics to promote growth will not be an option because products will not be available and veterinarians will only be able to write veterinary feed directives (prescriptions) according to the labeled indications for treatment, control and prevention," AHI said.
"There is no basis for the claim that this policy is meeting with opposition. All 26 companies marketing products affected by this policy pledged cooperation with FDA in early 2014. Animal health companies, farm representatives, feed manufacturers and veterinarians have been working with FDA on the details of these changes. The Farm Foundation this year held a series of 10 listening sessions around the country to help farmers understand how to comply with the changes. In addition, farm groups are working with FDA and USDA on data collection to provide an even better understanding of how antibiotics are used in animal agriculture. This is the picture of cooperation, not opposition," according to AHI.
AHI further noted that "the animal health and agriculture communities have been active participants in the Administration’s efforts to address the issue of antibiotic resistance through the Combatting Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) initiative, including participation on the Presidential Advisory Council. These are balanced efforts that bring together human health and animal health experts around the common and shared goal of keeping antibiotics effective."
"There is work to do in both the human health and animal health communities. The CDC report of December 2013 lists 18 pathogens have greatest concern in the U.S. and lists agriculture as a possible source for only two of them, both foodborne pathogens. This is where agriculture should and is focusing efforts to make a difference. Antibiotics are important for both human and animal health and collaborative efforts to improve stewardship can have the greatest impact on public health," AHI concluded.