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08 November 2017, 11:40 | Jodi Jackson
The food industry should stop using antibiotics to boost growth in healthy animals, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says in new guidelines that are meant to curb human resistance to such medicines. Experts warn that these drug-resistant bacteria develop in large part due to the overuse of antibiotics in livestock; about 70 percent of medically important antibiotics in the US are sold for use in farm animals. "Since 2009 the Netherlands, an important European livestock producer, has reduced its overall use of agricultural antibiotics by 64 percent". The list groups all antibiotics now used in humans and animals into three categories - "important", "highly important" and "critically important" - based on their importance to human medicine.
"A lack of effective antibiotics is a threat to the health security just as serious as a sudden outbreak of a deadly disease", said the director-general of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Healthy animals should only be injected for a disease, the global group says, if the same disease is found in other animals in the same livestock grouping.
The WHO also recommends improving hygiene, better use of vaccination, and changes in animal housing and husbandry practices as alternatives to using antibiotics in animals for disease prevention.
A review of almost 200 separate studies, commissioned by the World Health Organization indicated that cutting antibiotic use in food-producing animals could have a significant impact on the problem. Since 2005, World Health Organization has published a list of critically important antimicrobials for human medicine, with regular revisions, to be used as a basis for promoting their prudent use.
It said prolonging the effectiveness of antibiotics for humans and animals is a key objective for everyone and requires a multi-faceted fact-based long-term approach. Perdue Farms, a competitor, said it eliminated the routine use of antibiotics in chicken a year ago.
The IFA added that in general the recommendations are already being implemented by Irish farmers, and use of antibiotics on farms is already heavily regulated, with all products available only under veterinary prescription to farmers. In the United Kingdom, sales of antibiotics to treat and prevent disease in United Kingdom farm livestock have achieved a record low following a 27% reduction over the past two years.
Reacting to the news the Irish Farmers Association said it was critically important that decisions are strongly supported by factual evidence.
He said retailers have a huge role to play in ensuring their tactics are not forcing producers to produce food at prices below the cost of production.
As consumers are also driving the demand for meat raised without the routine use of antibiotics, actions have already been taken in many parts of the world to reduce the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals. "We remain committed to addressing antimicrobial resistance in people and animals".
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