The American Veterinary Medical Association has reiterated the need for antimicrobial use in livestock. Ensuring food safety and human health are key reasons that support the practice they said. The comments were made in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

"Risk assessments demonstrate a very low risk to human health from the use of antimicrobials in food animals, and some models predict an increased human health burden if the use is withdrawn," says Lyle Vogel, AVMA assistant executive vice president. "Non-risk based bans of approved uses of antimicrobials will negatively impact animal health and welfare without predictably improving public health."

The Senate hearing focused on the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant "superbugs" in humans. In his testimony, Vogel made clear that protecting human health is paramount to America's veterinarians. "Because veterinarians are ethically charged with promoting public health in addition to protecting animal health and welfare, we participate in the prevention of both human and animal disease," he said.

Vogel stated that scientific data do not support a ban on the preventative use of antibiotics, such as penicillin and tetracycline, in livestock. Evidence suggests, he noted, that when livestock are not given antimicrobials for preventing disease – as in Denmark since the 1990s – an increase in illnesses is likely to occur. Antibiotic resistance in some instances, he added, is ten times greater in Denmark than in the United States despite the Danish ban.

Vogel pointed out that regulations for antibiotics used in livestock are more stringent than for human antibiotics. The FDA evaluates each antibiotic used in livestock for human, environmental and animal safety. In addition, public and private surveillance systems monitor the use of the drugs for the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

For a summary of the testimony, click here.