The American Farm Bureau Federation and other members of the Coalition for Animal Health recently hosted an educational briefing for congressional staff on meat production, public health and the importance of antibiotics.
The briefing focused on helping legislators understand how and why farmers and ranchers use antibiotics.
Presenters included Dr. Scott Hurd, a veterinarian and epidemiologist at Iowa State University; Dr. Christine Hoang with the American Veterinary Medical Association; and Dr. Rich Carnevale from the Animal Health Institute.
The risk to humans is negligible due to on-farm antibiotic use, Hurd said, citing numerous peer-reviewed scientific assessments that have failed to demonstrate any detectable risk treatment failure in humans caused by on-farm antibiotic use in animals.
Failure to prevent or treat illness causes unnecessary animal suffering and death, Hurd pointed out. Further, he explained, animals with residual effects of illness are more likely to cause human foodborne disease.
“Every farm with animals is both a maternity hospital and a day care,” Hurd said.
“Animals need medicines at times, just like kids do. This becomes a moral and ethical issue …at what point will we deny treatment? It’s not right to withhold veterinary care for animals.”
Antibiotics for animals are needed because illnesses can move quickly through populations and livestock cannot “stay home” when they are sick.
Farmers and veterinarians are working together to manage potential hazards, with the goal of producing a safe and wholesome food supply, protecting public health and preserving antibiotics for use by future generations.
“It’s a long way from farm to harm,” Hurd said.
Commenting on several bacteria of concern to the Infectious Disease Society, Hurd said most, including Staphyloccous infections (MRSA), Streptococcus pneumoniae and drug-resistant tuberculosis, are not foodborne infections or related in any way to food-producing animals.