As congressional hearings this week review antibiotic use in food-animal production, voices on both sides of the debate are rising.

The centerpiece is the Food and Drug Administration’s draft guidance on antibiotic use that was released last month. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health is holding today’s hearings, which will include testimony from Randall Singer, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. He has studied antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in humans and animal health for the past 12 years. Among Singer’s conclusions: “All uses of antibiotics improve animal health, and these improvements in animal health can substantially improve human health.”

Howard Hill, DVM, Iowa Select Farms will be testifying for the National Pork Producers Council.

“Opponents of modern food-animal production claim that the use of antibiotics in livestock production is a public health threat, and they are pushing for a ban on certain antibiotics, including ones used to keep animals healthy,” notes NPPC.

Recently, more than 1,000 medical doctors and other health-care providers have signed requests for Congress to pass legislation reducing non-therapeutic antibiotics use in animals raised for food, according to the international coalition Health Care Without Harm. Further, the group reports that 300 hospitals have signed pledges to purchase only meat raised without antibiotics for their foodservice programs.

In a separate development, Stuart Levy, a molecular biology and microbiology professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, suggested that FDA classify antibiotics as “societal drugs” and impose stricter limits, similar to those in place for narcotics and psychoactive substances. Levy also is the president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics based at Tufts University.”

Next week, the Animal Health Institute, which represents animal-health companies, has scheduled a briefing in Washington to examine existing measures aimed at preventing the development of antibiotic- resistant microbes.