Stevens: Antibiotic resistance is misunderstood

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Roger StevensRoger Stevens Hot on the heels of the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to limit antibiotics in farm animals (including pigs), comes a white paper produced by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA). Titled “Bridging the Gap between Animal Health and Human Health,” the paper offers good observations on the use of antibiotics, in humans as well as animals, including companion animals.

You can find the paper here. At 15 pages, it is worth the effort, especially the one-and-a-half-page executive summary.

For pork producers, a couple of statements stand out. The first: “If you think you understand antimicrobial resistance, it hasn’t been explained properly to you.” This sets the tone for the paper, which is the result of an NIAA symposium, “Bridging the Gap between Animal Health and Human Health,” conducted November 12-14, 2013, in Kansas City, MO.

The symposium provided a platform where animal-health and human-health scientists shared the most current science-based information. Adding a further dimension to the symposium were presentations by consumer advocates and grocery retailers, among others.

The second notable statement: “Significant efforts are being led by the public-health community to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in human health and reduce hospital-acquired infections. Agriculture needs to be open to change as well.”

According to the NIAA, change will happen, and if animal agriculture is not willing to work with the other stockholders, “change will be drastic and by statute and will not be a deliberative policy change.”

If this gives some pork producers pause, consider the recent decisions by Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods to encourage producers to change their ways. Whether right or wrong, change will happen. For pork producers, the decision to help craft change will make a huge difference among the consuming public.

Roger Stevens is president of Stevens & Associates, Inc., a communications consulting firm based in Indianapolis, Ind. The comments and opinions expressed herein are those of the author.

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New England  |  January, 14, 2014 at 10:18 AM

When more than 80% of all antibiotics used are in agriculture ... there is something wrong with the way we are raising livestock.

NE  |  January, 14, 2014 at 07:21 PM

There are "low information consumers" who believe anything they read or hear. THere are those who would like to distort the facts to "LIC". If we put 1 lb of antibiotics in 2000 lbs of pig feed, have the pigs consumed 2000 lb of antibiotics? This is what some would like the "LIC" to believe

kansas  |  January, 15, 2014 at 03:29 PM

Steve - There are over 2 BILLION chickens & over 160 MILLION pigs and cattle in the US at any one time. As you're obviously quite ignorant of the reality of livestock production, you'll need to understand these animal numbers are multiplied annually based on consumption/replacement, so this is multiplied by the turn-over rate resulting in BILLIONS more per annum. Look up the Human Population of the US and do some basic math. 80% is not the Panic-Mongering number Panic-Mongers would like you to believe. There is nothing "wrong" as MODERN agriculture is no different than Modern Human Medicine. Medications and Medicating have grown for Humans at the same rate. It's called Science-based Progress and it keeps healthy, safe food in your urban bellies with only 1% of the population feeding 100s of Millions. What's interesting here is the CLAIM that "we" have recognized the Problem with Antibiotic Abuse in Human Medicine and are doing something about it. Really? A CLAIM I hear nothing about from the Modern Ag hating Doctors, Panic Mongers and their Media facilitators. When I see more Physician Heal Thyself mea culpas in the Press, I'll start believing there is a sincere attempt by All Parties to address issues with antibiotics, instead of just Anti-Ag Blame-Shifting Attacks and Fear-Mongering.

Iowa  |  January, 17, 2014 at 09:04 AM

I Was Hospitalized Reciently And I Asked My Nurses If They Had Heard Or Dispensed Tetracycline And NONE lf Them Had.The Most Used Feed Grade Antibiotic Is Not Even Used In Human Medicine. The Extremely Low Level Use Of Tetracyclines Prevent Sickness And Thus Increase Gains Because The Ankmals Are Healthy.All Antibiotics And Hormonal Implante Have A Withdrawl Period So None Of These Health Aids Ever Reach The Consumer.

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