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Email Content: Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

Review of FDA Statistics on Antibiotic Use in U.S. Livestock Production


The FDA released a report Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals concurrently with an explanatory statement by Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb on December 18th. The document clearly demonstrated the effects of restrictions on the use of antibiotics in livestock for other than therapeutic purposes and placing the onus on the Veterinary profession to prescribe antibiotics for livestock.  The Report documents a reduction of 33 percent in consumption of medically-important antibiotics between 2016 and 2017. A significant observation is that antibiotics used to produce chickens declined by 47 percent to represent 4.8 percent of total livestock use in 2017 compared to 2016. Administration of antibiotics to turkeys in 2017 declined by 11 percent from 2016 to represent 12 percent of all livestock use.


Given the market demand to restrict administration of antibiotics, especially those with human-health implications, the U.S. poultry industry has made extensive changes in approaches to flock management to maintain productivity in the absence of sub-therapeutic or prophylactic administration of antibiotics. Alternatives include adoption of Consumer Acceptable Production Enhancers (CAPES) classed as prebiotic, probiotic, organic acid and botanical feed additives. These innovations together with an emphasis on preventive practices including vaccination, ventilation, litter management hatchery hygiene allowed prudent prescription of antibiotics restricted to therapeutic application under Veterinary supervision. This should have resulted in a potentially beneficial reduction in emerging drug resistance in pathogens common to livestock and human populations. Reduction in antibiotics has been accomplished without any nationally quantifiable reduction in live weight, feed-conversion efficiency or an increase in mortality and plant condemnation.


Because of the importance of the FDA oversight over antibiotic use in livestock exemplified in the 2019 Strategic Approach for Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance and the demands of the marketplace, the 2018 FDA Report on antimicrobial sales in 2017 is reviewed in a separate article in this edition. Specific use data for antibiotic administration to broilers and turkeys documents the marked reduction achieved in one year following imposition of FDA mandates.


For the record this commentator advocates compliance with FDA and customer requirements both in the specifics and intent of restrictions. As a practicing poultry health professional the need to prescribe water medication or to issue a VFD when appropriate is recognized to support flock welfare and reduce losses. Constructive comments on the data in the FDA Report and the interpretations provided are invited from both proponents and opponents of additional restrictions on antibiotic use in production.

Copyright 2019 Simon M. Shane