According to Dr Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian at the US National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), all antibiotic growth promoters that are also used in human medicine will disappear.
“We are expecting that in the next 3-5 years the pork industry will lose growth promotion labels for most of the antibiotics used in swine medicine,” Dr Wagstrom said in a recent interview at the World Pork Expo in Iowa.
Dr Wagstrom was commenting on Guidance 209, issued by the FDA last April.
Under the new FDA guidelines, antibiotics should be used ‘judiciously’, or in other words, when necessary to keep animals healthy. The agency also wants to require a vet to prescribe the antibiotics – nowadays they can still be purchased over the counter by animal farmers.
The draft recommendations by the FDA are not binding, and that is why the agency is asking pharmaceutical companies now to voluntarily put the proposed limits in place. They would need to adjust the labelling of their antibiotics to remove so-called production uses of the antibiotics.
“Voluntary is relative,” commented Wagstrom. “If these companies do not voluntarily act, then the FDA will take additional action. Companies know that, that’s why they will comply. I have no doubt that we will lose all antibiotic growth promoters that are also used in human medicine.”
Four antibiotics are not used in human medicine and will therefore continue to be available, among which carbadox and tiamulin. Nevertheless, Novartis, producer of tiamulin, Novartis, has already voluntarily withdrawn its claim for growth promoting effects, last May.
Wagstrom said she acknowledges that the use of antibiotics will imply ‘a selection for resistance’. “In theory this might lead to a problem in pathology for humans. But peer-reviewed papers state that the risk is so small. And wouldn’t there be more risk if the food would now contain Campylobacter or Salmonella? It is a complex topic.”