Antibiotics are critically important to produce safe food. The nation's livestock and poultry producers prudently use these U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved treatments to raise healthy animals. By protecting our livestock and poultry, we are able to prevent the spread of disease on our farms. Preventing the spread of disease is important in reducing the presence of pathogens in our food. Farm animals that are protected by antibiotics are healthier, have less need for therapeutic antibiotics, receive fewer antibiotics and produce safer food.

  • Antibiotics undergo a stringent FDA regulatory approval process. The FDA and USDA jointly work to monitor safe and proper use. These products have been used safely through the past 40 years.
  • The vast majority of antibiotics– some 85 percent to 90 percent– are used in poultry and livestock to treat and prevent disease, according to a study conducted with the producers of animal antibiotics.
  • Fluoroquinolones have been approved for use in poultry since 1995. They are used to treat specific, serious animal diseases and are given only under prescription of a veterinarian. According to a National Chicken Council survey, less than 2 percent of chicken flocks are ever treated with a fluoroquinolone. Normally a single course of the antibiotic, lasting only several days, is sufficient to treat an outbreak.
  • Published data from the federal government and scientific journals estimate that antibiotics used in farm animals account for less than 5 percent of antibiotic resistance in humans. The resistance impact of animal antibiotic use can be further reduced through continued application of, and education about, prudent use practices as well as enhanced surveillance leading to informed management decisions.
  • There are more than 8 billion food-producing animals in the United States compared to 275 million people, and the human use of antibiotics is 10 times the amount used with farm animals on a per weight basis, according a Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association article.
  • The World Health Organization estimates 40 percent of antibiotics used in human medicine are unnecessary. Collectively, we all need to work together to ensure the prudent use of antibiotics. Effective management of resistance requires cooperation between the public and private sectors, and the participation of the human and animal health communities.
  • According to a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases on organic poultry (poultry that is raised free of antibiotics), researchers found Salmonella was three times more likely to occur than in conventionally raised chicken. Similarly, data from Denmark shows organically raised poultry was three times as likely to contain Campylobacter as conventionally raised poultry.
  • Another study done in Denmark, a country that restricted the use of preventative antibiotics, showed an increase in disease and a 30 percent increase in antibiotic use to treat those diseases.
  • The attempt to suggestively link anthrax and foodborne antibiotic resistance is alarmingly inaccurate and misleading. The effectiveness of drugs like Cipro against anthrax is in no way diminished by the use of antibiotics in animals. Neither people nor animals become resistant to antibiotics; it is bacteria that can become resistant over time. The use of antibiotics in animals has no impact at all on the resistance pattern of bacteria used as agents of bioterrorism.

Coalition for Animal Health news release.

See also: CAH Responds to Anti-antibiotic Campaign