The American Veterinary Medical Association testified Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, addressing the preventative use of antimicrobials in food animals and reiterating the necessity of antibiotic use in livestock for ensuring food safety.
Dr. Lyle P. Vogel, AVMA assistant executive vice president, testified at the hearing, which focused on the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant "super bugs" in humans. Mollifying concerns that use of antimicrobials such as penicillin and tetracycline in food animals leads to human resistance of the drugs, Vogel made it clear that protecting human health is paramount to America's veterinarians. Vogel said scientific data do not support a ban on the preventative use of antibiotics in food animals. Evidence suggests that when livestock are not given antimicrobials for prevention of disease -- as has happened in Denmark since the 1990s -- an increase in illnesses is likely to occur, he noted. In some instances, he added, antibiotic resistance is 10 times greater in Denmark than in the U.S. despite the Danish ban.
"Risk assessments demonstrate a very low risk to human health from the use of antimicrobials in food animals, and some models predict an increased human health burden if the use is withdrawn," Vogel testified. "Non-risk-based bans of approved uses of antimicrobials will negatively impact animal health and welfare without predictably improving public health."
Vogel told the committee that the Food & Drug Administration's evaluations of antibiotics used in livestock are more stringent than for human antibiotics. FDA evaluates each food animal antibiotic for human, environmental and animal safety, and additionally, public and private surveillance systems monitor the use of the drugs for the emergence of antibiotic resistance.