by Marion Nestle
Nov 14 2017

WHO: Restrict medically important antibiotics in farm animals

The World Health Organization has issued guidelines on use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animalsIts latest report recommends:

  • An overall reduction in use
  • Complete restriction in use for growth promotion
  • Complete restriction of use for infectious disease prevention
  • Not using them for disease treatment

For comparison, the FDA bans these antibiotics for growth promotion, but permits when recommended by a veterinarian when necessary for an animal’s health.

Antibiotics used in food animal production amount to 80 percent of antibiotic consumption worldwide.

Studies show that restricting antibiotic use in animals will reduce their prevalence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

As you might expect, opinions about this report are divided.  Consumer groups, who have been advocating for these practices for years, are eager for the guidelines to be implemented immediately.  So are companies like Perdue, which are already doing this.

Opposition comes from the meat industry, of course, but also the chief scientist of USDA who must not have read the guidelines carefully, if at all.

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.

The WHO report may help advocates get some long-awaited action on antibiotics, but it’s hard to be optimistic.

I just came across this report from the CDC: 2017 Antibiotic use in the U.S.: Progress and Opportunities It is This report is notable for focusing exclusively on antibiotics in human health.  It excludes any discussion of antibiotic use in animals—as if there were no relationship.

It’s time to bring agricultural policies in line with health policies!