Jean Halloran, Consumer's Union, had the opening statement in the second Food Dialogues Panel in New York City, this week and she characterized the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production as part of a "crisis situation with antibiotics." Halloran notes that antibiotics are losing their efficacy and there are problems with resistant bacteria that lead to illnesses that cannot be cured.
"We discovered that 80% of the antibiotics used in this country are used for animals, and primarily for growth promotion and disease prevention," Halloran says. "We need to see this change."
The panel was the second of three held as part of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance series of Food Dialogues. This series was held in New York City and covered media, antibiotic use and biotechnology use as well.
Halloran's 80% figure became a bone of contention for the diverse panelists on the program including a veterinarian from the American Veterinary Medical Association; a farmer-veterinarian, a pediatric nutritionist and an Iowa pork producer. When challenged on the 80% figure, Halloran noted the assertion was based on numbers reported by manufacturers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Consumers Union is dedicated to removing antibiotics from livestock use - except for treatment of disease - and is pushing a program where at least half the super markets in the United States sell meat as part of a meat without drugs campaign. The idea is to drive the supermarkets to demand such a product.
The discussion, which was lively at times, took a good, close look at the issue at hand. Antibiotics have a role in preventing disease, but when asked by moderator Ali Veshli, CNN's chief business correspondent, what they would do if antibiotics were banned for all but treatment uses tomorrow, the responses from the pork and dairy producer were similar: They would worry about the welfare of their animals first.