Antibiotic usage: regulations

One of the important problems of humanity is to provide enough food for the increasing population. Production of meet with increasing efficiency and lower costs induced the spreading of intensive farming technologies. In particular, poultry (especially chicken) is grown at large scale under artificial conditions. These intensive technologies, however, resulted in increasing number of diseases due to infections (both bacterial and viral). In order to reduce the chance of bacterial infections antibiotics started to be added as additives to feedstuff. In The United States, Food and Drug Administration approved the use of antibiotics as animal additives without veterinary prescription in 1951. In the 1950s and 1960s, each European state approved its own national regulations about the use of antibiotics in animal feeds[1]. Later, several concerns arose about the preventive usage of antibiotics in the feedstuff. The risk concerning residues of antibiotics in edible tissues and products that can produce allergic or toxic reactions in consumers was proved[2]. Moreover, the use of antibiotics as feed additives in the long run can contribute to the development of resistant bacteria to drugs used to treat (both human and animal) infections. For this reason, the World Health Organization (1997)[3] and the Economic and Social Committee of the European Union (1998)[4] concluded that the use of antimicrobials in food for animals is a public health issue. Based on these findings, several European states prohibited the use of antibiotics in feedstuff in the late 90’s. Afterwards, the European Commission regulated the additives used in animal nutrition[5]. In the regulation 1831/2003, it is stated that antibiotics (other than coccidiostats and histomonostats) might be marketed and used as feed additives only until the end of 2005. Later, anticoccidial substances, such as antibiotics ionophores, were also prohibited as feed additives.

After 2013, in the Member States of the European Union, medical substances in animal feeds are limited to therapeutic use by veterinary prescription[6].

In the day to day farming practice, a veterinarian must examine sick or deceased animals and prove the bacterial infection before applying any antibiotics. This proof, however, requires bacteriological culturing under laboratory conditions, which takes 24 to 48 hours (up to 72 hours). During this time, unfortunately, several animals can be infected, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers and/or application of antibiotics to more animals and/or at higher dose.

Intensive farming of broiler chicken

 

[1] Jones, F. T. S. C. Ricke. 2003. Observations on the history of the development of antimicrobials and their use in poultry feeds. Poult. Sci. 82:613–617.

[2] Donoghue, D. J. 2003. Antibiotic residues in poultry tissues and eggs: Human health concerns? Poult. Sci. 82:618–621.

[3] World Health Organization. 1997. The medical impact of the use of antimicrobials in food animals: Report of a WHO meeting, Berlin, Germany.

[4] Economic and Social Committee of the European Union. 1998. Opinion on resistance to antibiotics as a threat to public health. No. ESC-98-016-EN.

[5] Regulation 1831/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council

[6] Natasha Gilbert: Antibiotic resistance marching across Europe, Nature News, 22 November 2011

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