The American Veterinary Medical Association testified before the U.S. Congress last week on advancements to animal health in the livestock industry, describing for lawmakers progress made improving public health and reaffirming the importance of treating food animals with antibiotic medicines.
Addressing the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry, Christine Hoang, DVM, AVAM's assistant director of the scientific activities division, explained that significant safeguards to animal and human health have emerged as a result of veterinarians’ work with livestock.
“Our profession has made many advances in animal health and food safety — in areas such as the development and implementation of animal disease control programs and biotechnology,” Hoang said. “Other successes through collaborative efforts include a decline in foodborne illness from meat and poultry products as well as a decline in the prevalence of foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella, associated with meat and poultry and resistance of those organisms."
The hearing also addressed the judicious use of antibiotics by veterinarians and whether human antibiotic resistance can be linked to antibiotics used to treat food animals. AVMA testified in June at a U.S. Senate hearing on antibiotic resistance and mollified concerns that the use of antimicrobials – such as penicillin and tetracycline – in food animals leads to human resistance.
Hoang reiterated the benefits of maintaining animal health with the use of antibiotics. “Several risk assessments demonstrate a very low risk to human health from the use of antimicrobials in food animals, and more significantly, some models predict an increased human health burden if the use is withdrawn,” she testified.
Additionally, Hoang told the committee that systems that monitor the use of drugs in livestock are effective but need additional funding. The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank was highlighted as a critical — but chronically underfunded — program on which veterinarians, livestock producers, state and federal regulatory, and extension specialists depend.
AVMA’s written testimony will be posted on the AVMA’s food safety advocacy Web site, www.keepourfoodsafe.org.