DES MOINES, Iowa -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) goal is for food-animal producers to “use less antibiotics,” says Liz Wagstrom, DVM, the National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) chief veterinarian. As a result, FDA released its Guidance 209 in late April. The antibiotic issue was one of many discussed last week at World Pork Expo (WPX) in Des Moines, Iowa.

It is a voluntary process that will end the low-level or in-feed application of antibiotics in food-animal production unless a specific disease issue is identified for a specific antibiotic application, and a veterinarian writes a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) to allow the product to be incorporated in to the feed. (For more on Guidance 209, check out “Big Changes Ahead for Antibiotics”.)

 “We take this (using antibiotics) really seriously. We want to preserve their effectiveness so we want to use less too,” Bob Dyhuis, Michigan pork producer, told Pork Network at WPX.  The idea the pork producers use antibiotics “willy nilly” is really bothersome.

As a National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) board member, Dykhuis has been involved in the antibiotic issue and in working to educate lawmakers on applications on the farm. He points out that pork producers use antibiotics based on a treatment strategy and on diagnostics such as post-mortem examinations to get the right treatment application for the pathogen at hand. “These drugs are expensive, and they go in for a purpose; and they’re pulled out as soon as possible,” Dykhuis points out.

He sat down with AgriTalk, Pork magazine’s sister broadcasting entity while at WPX.  You can see the video interview here.

Because FDA’s Guidance 209 applies to antibiotics that are “important for human use,” there are four that are not included in the rule. Those are Mecadox, Denagard, Flavomycin and BMD.  

But make no mistake FDA means business with Guidance 209. From a regulatory standpoint, “a guidance is different than a guideline,” Wagstrom says. “It is equal to a rule of law. I wouldn’t call this voluntary at all. They expect companies (producers and veterinarians) will comply.”

FDA also released Guidance 213 that would allow animal health companies with in-feed antimicrobial products the opportunity to pursue a new label claim for disease treatment if the studies and data support that application. There is a three-year period for companies to accomplish that task.

The nagging concern has to do with the VFDs. “Do we know that producers understand the VFDs and how to use them,” Wagstrom asks. “We’ve long supported judicious use of antibiotics, but it does add a significant burden of paperwork, record keeping and timing on the veterinarian’s part to ensure correct preparation of the feed and producer’s behalf.”

Access and availability to veterinarians can be a challenge for some producers, particularly in more lowly populated or fringe states.  “The small- to medium-sized producers will be affected the most,” Dykhuis adds.

But what troubles Dykhuis most is the idea that a science-based agency such as FDA “is turning to other factors, such as emotion and pressures, to make these decisions. The science is not there to require this move,” he says.