by Marion Nestle
Feb 13 2018

Overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture: more data (still no action)

An article in The Guardian alerted me to a new report comparing antibiotic use in the UK to that in the US.  The Guardian explains the problem:

The contribution of farm antibiotic use to human resistance is widely recognised, including by the 2016 O’Neill AMR report, the World Health Organisation and the European Food Safety Authority.

The routine overuse of antibiotics in farm animals creates perfect conditions for the emergence of resistant bacteria, killing off susceptible bacteria while allowing stronger resistant bacteria to survive.

The report comes from the UK advocacy group, Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics.

The report finds that per ton of livestock, antibiotic:

  • Use in US pigs is about twice as high as use in UK pigs.
  • Use in US chickens is about 3 times as high as use in UK chickens.
  • Use in US turkeys is about 5 times as high as use in UK turkeys.
  • Use in US cattle is about 9-16 times as high as use in UK cattle.
  • Use in all food animals in the US is about 5 times as high as use in the UK.

The report includes a table of US sales of medically important antibiotics (kilograms active ingredient):This group has lots of other reports on specific aspects of antibiotic use, including one from October 2017 on farm antibiotic use in the U.S.

The FDA, which has an entire web page on animal antibiotics, has made valiant efforts over the years to control antibiotic use in farm animals, but these have not gotten very far.

The threat to the effectiveness of antibiotics in humans is real and affects all of us.  At least 20 organizations in the US are advocating for more responsible use of antibiotics in farm animals.

Their efforts deserve support.