Johns Hopkins report blasts failure to curb antibiotic use in livestock
10/22/2013 9:07 AM
08/08/2014 10:19 AM
U.S. regulators and livestock producers have failed to curb the use of antibiotics in livestock despite concerns that excessive use in meat production will reduce the drugs’ effectiveness in humans, said a panel of experts.
“Meaningful change is unlikely in the future,” concluded the 14-member panel, assembled by Johns Hopkins University, in a report released on Tuesday.
The release marked the fifth anniversary of a landmark 2008 Pew Charitable Trust report that called for an end to the sub therapeutic use of antibiotics by livestock producers, as well as an end to practices such as tiny cages for laying hens.
Congressional hearings followed the release of that report, and the livestock industry went into damage control mode.
Some livestock producers use antibiotics in the feed for cattle, hogs and poultry – not only to prevent and treat illness but to promote growth.
The Johns Hopkins’ report said “additional scientific evidence has strengthened the case that these (non therapeutic) uses pose unnecessary and unreasonable public health risks” of allowing bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics.
“There has been an appalling lack of progress,” said director Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, which produced the report. He said lack of action by Congress and federal regulators and the “intransigence of animal agriculture industry” had made the problems worse.
The panel that wrote the Johns Hopkins report included ranchers, public health experts, the former dean of a veterinary school and former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. Its chairman was former Kansas Governor John Carlin.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has altered its guidelines to say antibiotics should be used only under the guidance of a veterinarian for prevention, control or treatment of disease, the Johns Hopkins report said there was a loophole. Drugs can be approved for disease prevention on the proviso that they are not being used as part of livestock production.
“This means that while antimicrobial approvals may change … antimicrobial use may not,” said the report.
An FDA spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
A livestock group, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, said in its own report – released to coincide with the Johns Hopkins study – that the FDA guidelines will assure medically important antibiotics are used by farmers and ranchers only to combat disease.
Richard Raymond, a former agriculture undersecretary for food safety, said in the alliance report that antibiotics are part of an array of biological tools for livestock producers.
Raymond listed them along with beta-agonists, a type of feed additive that helps animals gain weight faster, and man-made bovine hormones which are used to boost dairy production.
Join the Discussion
The Wichita Eagle is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.