The World Health Organization issued a strong statement this week against the use of all antibiotics in healthy food-producing animals. The WHO says overuse and misuse of antibiotics in both animals and humans is contributing to the buildup of antibiotic resistance. The organization notes that some bacteria that cause serious diseases in humans have built resistance to most types of treatment options and there are very few new options in the research pipeline. WHO says 80 percent of antibiotic use is in the animal sector, with most usage promoting animal growth instead of treating disease. The agency says healthy animals should only be treated if a disease has been diagnosed in other members of the herd or flock. Antibiotics should also be chosen from the group of medicines that the WHO considers “least important to human health.”
The National Pork Producers Council called a ban on disease prevention uses of antibiotics in animal food production “ill-advised and wrong,” also saying that the U.S. pork industry’s goal has been to reduce the need for antibiotics. However, they say denying the use of antibiotics goes against the obligations of pork farmers and veterinarians to care for their animals.
USDA issued a statement Tuesday afternoon from Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA acting chief scientist, that refuted the WHO’s guidelines but also acknowledged the need to find alternative therapies to treat animals.
“The WHO guidelines are not in alignment with U.S. policy and are not supported by sound science. The recommendations erroneously conflate disease prevention with growth promotion in animals,” Jacobs-Young stated.