The US uses approximately six times more antibiotics to produce about 1kg of meat than Denmark, that is according to a Danish food official in a presentation in Chicago, Illinois, earlier this week.
Henrik Caspar Wegener, director of the National Food Institute in Denmark, said during a panel session at the Chicago conference, “My main advice for the US is that all antibiotics used on animals should be given only with a prescription.”
“That’s not the case at the moment. Antibiotics are medicines. They should be prescribed by someone educated to make that decision.”
By requiring prescriptions for all antibiotics, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can make more-informed decisions about how antibiotics are used and give them insight on how a reduction can be achieved, he said. In addition, more data may help officials persuade the US meat-producing industry to change its practices, Wegener said.
Resistant infections in human medicine would cost the US more than $20 billion annually, a 2009 study reported.
At the moment, antibiotics are available by prescription, in an animal’s feed with the approval of a veterinarian, and over-the-counter without a prescription. The FDA issued draft guidance at the end of June, last year, that would require veterinarian approval for all antibiotics, eliminating over-the-counter availability. The guidance isn’t yet final.
Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian at the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) agreed with the call for more surveillance. But added, that requiring prescriptions would be more difficult in the US than in Denmark, due to the US’s larger size and less homogeneous population, making tracking difficult.
Monitoring however has become more likely recently, as a report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) gave the issue new prominence. It advised the FDA to work with antibtiocs producing companies on a voluntary basis to increase veterinary supervision of antibiotics.
Data collected so far ‘lack crucial details necessary to examine trends and understand the relationship between use and resistance’, the report said.
Wegener said he met with GAO investigators in Denmark, and the investigators also talked with farmers and veterinarians. "We had a lengthy discussion about the situation in Demark," Wegener said. "I just wonder if there is the political will to change anything about antibiotic use in the US."
• Do we want antibiotics in feed?
• National Pork Producers Council (NPPC)