The National Pork Producers Council has concerns about the impact of the implementation of U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production. The group says the expected loss of and restricted access to products will likely disproportionately affect small producers, have a negative effect on animal health and increase the cost of producing food without improving public health. The FDA guidance issued Wednesday was first proposed in June 2010. It calls for antibiotics that are medically important to humans only be used in animals when necessary to assure their health.
For those antibiotics labeled only for nutritional efficiency – FDA will work with animal health companies to help them voluntarily discontinue sales to livestock and poultry producers. Also – all antibiotics in classes used in human medicine will need to be used under a veterinary feed directive – VFD. NPPC President R.C. Hunt says it’s the VFD requirement that could be especially problematic for smaller producers or producers in remote areas that may not have regular access to veterinary services.
FDA’s guidance is designed to address an increase in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans – which some have tried to blame on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production. But NPPC notes several peer-reviewed risk assessments – including at least one by FDA – show only a negligible risk to human health. Hunt says FDA didn’t provide compelling evidence or state that the use of antibiotics in livestock production is unsafe. He adds that pork producers work with veterinarians to carefully consider if antibiotics are necessary and which ones to use – and use them to keep animals healthy and to produce safe food.
The FDA states that disease prevention, control and treatment uses of antibiotics in livestock production are therapeutic and essential to protect animal health. Those label claims will not be affected by its guidance. FDA will also work with USDA to understand the implications of the VFD on underserved areas.