by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Antibiotics

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!

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Oct 26 2017

Meat on the agenda: Bacon and Fast Food antibiotics

I’m collecting reports about meat.

The first is The Bacon Report from MeatPoultry.com.

 

And here’s Restaurant Report Card: What’s in your fast food meat?

May 10 2017

Will we ever stop misusing animal antibiotics?

Politico ProAg reports that the International Poultry Council will soon issue a statement advising the poultry industry to:

  • Stop using antibiotics critical to human medicine to promote livestock growth and prevent disease,
  • Only use these drugs when prescribed by a veterinarian for treatment of disease,
  • Be transparent about the amount of antibiotics it uses and why.

The poultry industry routinely uses antibiotics in feed and water despite major efforts to stop this practice.

Government agencies concerned about increasing resistance to animal antibiotics have long wanted their use stopped or managed appropriately.

Trying to stop misuse of animal antibiotics has a long history.

The animal agriculture industry has fought all attempts to curtain antibiotic use.

The word has gotten through to the poultry industry.  Let’s hope this works.

Jan 2 2017

The FDA’s report on antibiotic use in farm animals: still increasing

The FDA recently published its Annual Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed in 2015 for Use in Food-Producing Animals.

The report finds bad news and good news.

The bad news :

The report shows that sales and distribution of all antimicrobials increased 1 percent from 2014 through 2015, tying for the lowest annual increase since 2009. The percentage of those antimicrobials that are considered medically important in human medicine increased by 2 percent from 2014 through 2015.

The good news: This ties for the lowest annual increase since 2009.

But here’s a summary of antibiotic use in animal agriculture:—9.7 million kilograms of medically important drugs (that’s about 20 million pounds) and another 5.9 million kilograms of antibiotics that are not important medically. (about 13 million pounds).

The report comes with a Q and A.  Here is an example:

Does a summary report exist for antimicrobial sales and distribution for human drugs?  Yes. Please see: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm261160.htm.

Then go to: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/UCM319435.pdf

3.28 million kilograms of selected systemic antibacterial drugs were sold during year 2010 and around 3.29 million kilograms were sold during year 2011. Active ingredient amoxicillin had the highest proportion of total kilograms sold of all selected systemic antibacterial drug products throughout the time period examined.

OK, but the objective needs to be to decrease use of antimicrobials in animal agriculture and use them only for treatment of illnesses, not prevention.

 

Aug 3 2016

McDonald’s joins the food movement???

McDonald’s ran a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times:*

“At McDonald’s we’re on a journey: What’s important to you is important to us.”

The ad says McDonald’s is taking these actions [with my comments]:

  • Removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets and other items [Fine, but no big deal in my book.]
  • Removed high fructose corn syrup from hamburger buns [And replaced it with what?  Sugar?  This matters? I’m guessing the price of HFCS must be close enough to the price of sugar to make this possible.]**
  • Committed to only source chickens that have not been treated with antibiotics [OK.  Now we’re talking important.  For this alone,  McDonald’s deserves high praise.  My only question: by when?]*** 

The ad also summarizes the company’s additional actions, done and promised:

  • Burgers are 100% beef
  • Eggs are freshly cracked
  • Salads feature baby spinach, kale, Tuscan red leaf lettuce, and carrots
  • Buttermilk chicken uses real buttermilk
  • Milk is sourced from cows not treated with rbST
  • 2 billion sides of fruit were served (including 59 million clementines)
  • Espresso beans are Rainforest Alliance Certified
  • Eggs will be cage-free by 2025

Amazing, no?

It’s worth a field trip to see how all this works in practice.  I’m on it.

Additions, corrections, and updates

*Jill Cornish writes that the ad also appeared in the Washington Post.

**I get a Bingo for this one.  Martijn Katan writes: “The price of beet sugar fell below that of HCFS in April 2015. By June 2016, 1 lb of HFCS-55 cost $0.412 as opposed to $0.297 for beet sugar.”  He even sends a reference: www.cornnaturally.com/Economics-of-HFCS/price-calculator.aspx

***Andy Smith points out that “In 2015, McDonald’s announced that it would stop buying chicken raised with non-therapeutic, medically-important antibiotics by 2017– but a few weeks ago announced that it had already done so.”  He too provides a reference: See QSR. “McDonald’s Eliminates Antibiotics From Its Chicken,” QSR Magazine, August 2, 2016. Retrieved at https://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/eliminates-antibiotics-its-chicken.

Thank you readers!  Much appreciated.

Apr 28 2015

Is the food movement winning?

Brian Lehrer asked me a question this morning that is well worth pondering.

The gist: Are the recent actions taken by food companies an indication that consumers are having an effect at the expense of science—and at the expense of focusing on more important food issues such as too much sugar, obesity, and diabetes?

He cited these recent events:

  • Tyson’s says it will phase out human antibiotics in broiler production.
  • McDonald’s says it will source chicken that has not been treated with antibiotics.
  • PepsiCo says it is taking aspartame out of its diet sodas (it’s the #1 reason given for not drinking diet cola).
  • Chipotle says it will source GMO-free ingredients.
  • Nestlé says it is removing artificial colors from its chocolate candy.
  • Kraft says it is taking the yellow dyes out of its Mac n’ Cheese.

To all of them, I say it’s about time.

None of these is necessary in the food supply.

There are plenty of scientific questions about all of them, although some—antibiotics, for example—are more troubling than others.

If voting with your fork can achieve these results, they pave the way for taking on the much more difficult issues.

These are big steps forward.  They matter.

They should inspire other companies to do the same.

Dec 27 2013

More on “profligate” use of antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals

The New England Journal of Medicine has an editorial on why we need to stop using antibiotics to promote the growth of farm animals and make sure they are only used for therapeutic purposes.

Otherwise, bacteria will become resistant to them and the antibiotics won’t work in us.

This figure from the article illustrates the problem:

As writers in the Journal wrote a year ago, we know what to do about the problem: Ban antibiotic use for everything other than disease treatment.

The FDA is taking baby steps in this direction.  How about a new year’s resolution to speed up the process?

Dec 17 2013

The FDA issues guidance on animal antibiotics–voluntary, alas, but still a major big deal

I was in Washington DC last week when the FDA announced  that it was taking significant steps to address antibiotic resistance, a problem caused by overuse in raising animals for food.

The FDA called on makers of animal antibiotics to:

  • Voluntarily stop labeling medical important antibiotics as usable for promoting animal growth or feed efficiency (in essence, banning antibiotics from these uses).
  • Voluntarily notify the FDA of their intent to sign on to these strategies within the next three months.
  • Voluntarily put the new guidance into effect within 3 years.
  • Agree to a proposed rule to require a veterinarian’s prescription to use antibiotics that are presently sold over the counter (the proposal is open for public comment for 90 days at www.regulations.gov.   Docket FDA-2010-N-0155).

Voluntary is, of course, a red flag and the Washington Post quoted critics saying that the new guidance falls far short of what really is needed—a flat-out ban on use of antibiotics as growth promoters.

  • Consumers Union is concerned about the long delay caused by the 3-year window.
  • CSPI is worried about all the loopholes.
  • NRDC thinks the FDA is pretending to do more than it’s really doing and “kicks the can significantly down the road.”
  • Mother Jones points out that the meat industry can still “claim it’s using antibiotics ‘preventively,’ continuing to reap the benefits of growth promotion and continue to generate resistant bacteria.”
  • Civil Eats reminds us that the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (on which I served) recommended a ban on nontherapeutic use of all antibiotics.

Yes, the loopholes are real, but I view the FDA’s guidance as a major big deal.  The agency is explicitly taking on the antibiotic problem.  It is sending a clear signal to industrial farm animal  producers that sooner or later they will have to:

  • Stop using antibiotics as growth promoters.
  • Stop using antibiotics indiscriminately, even for disease treatment.

I think the FDA is dead serious about the antibiotic problem.  If the FDA seems to be doing this in some convoluted fashion, I’m guessing it’s because it has to.  The FDA must not have been able to find any other politically viable way to get at the antibiotics problem.

I see this as a first step on the road to banning antibiotics for any use in animals other than the occasional treatment of specific illnesses.

As the New York Times puts it,

This is the agency’s first serious attempt in decades to curb what experts have long regarded as the systematic overuse of antibiotics in healthy farm animals, with the drugs typically added directly into their feed and water. The waning effectiveness of antibiotics — wonder drugs of the 20th century — has become a looming threat to public health. At least two million Americans fall sick every year and about 23,000 die from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Still not convinced antibiotics are worth banning for promoting growth?

The best explanation is the Washington Post’s handy guide to the antibiotic-perplexed.  Here, for example, is its timeline of development of microbial resistance to antibiotics.  The bottom line: the more widespread the use of antibiotics, the greater the onset and prevalence of resistance.  And it takes practically no time for bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotic drugs.

nchembio.2007.24-F1

Resources from FDA

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