Push to Tighten Antibiotic Use

Food Companies, Retailers and Livestock Groups Agree on Drug Stewardship Framework

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The National Turkey Federation joined other livestock groups and food and drug companies to promote practices that would ensure proper management of antibiotic use in the livestock industry. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer file photo by Jim Patrico)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Food companies, retailers and some major livestock groups have come together to draft a new framework to improve management of antibiotic use in the livestock industry.

Food companies and retailers such as Walmart, Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, McDonald's, Hormel Foods and Jennie-O-Turkey joined with drug companies such as Elanco Animal Health and Zoetis, along with livestock groups such as the National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council and the National Turkey Federation, to promote practices that would ensure proper veterinary oversight of antibiotic use; minimize the need for antibiotics through biosecurity, husbandry practices and disease-prevention strategies; and optimize the use and selection of such drugs.

The companies came together through a two-year series of discussions moderated by the Farm Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The framework for antibiotic use comes out as the FDA released its 2017 report on antimicrobial drugs sold for use in livestock. The report states there was a 33% decline from 2016 to 2017 in the sales and use of "medically-important antimicrobials" in the livestock industry. The decline comes after the first year in which FDA had prohibited the sales of antibiotic drugs for growth promotion and required producers using such drugs to get a veterinarian's order.

Sales for such drugs to the livestock industry peaked in 2015, but are down 41% since that time. Going back to 2009 when FDA started keeping track of such medical sales for livestock, sales are down 28%.

Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, issued a statement saying he was pleased with the report, but said more work is needed to fight antibiotic resistance.

FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine announced in September that FDA intends to take additional steps in the veterinary field to increase momentum for antimicrobial stewardship. That plan will be phased in over the next five years. (https://www.fda.gov/…)

The focus on antibiotics is highlighted by the FDA and Centers for Disease Control, which has stated that there are growing risks of antibiotic-resistant threats that already have affected at least 2 million Americans annually. (https://www.cdc.gov/…)

McDonald's announced earlier this month it would reduce the use of drugs in its beef supply chain by 2021.

The Farm Foundation/Pew Charitable Trusts collaboration created a framework with 15 components to deal with education, implementation and evaluation or verification to build up stewardship programs and continue lowering the livestock industry's use of antibiotic drugs.

"There is a broad consensus across the food animal industry that we must continue to drive and demonstrate antibiotic stewardship in animal agriculture," said Joe Swedberg, chairman of the board of Farm Foundation. "This framework is about stakeholders coming together to do the right thing and communicate their commitment to antibiotic stewardship, with a transparent and meaningful approach."

The industry frame work on antibiotic stewardship can be viewed at: https://files.constantcontact.com/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

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Chris Clayton