WHO animal antibiotic guideline disregards science, warns USDA chief scientist

According to WHO guideline, the on-farm antibiotic use recommendation is based on 'very low-quality evidence.'

November 8, 2017

2 Min Read
WHO animal antibiotic guideline disregards science, warns USDA chief scientist
USDA Photo/Lance Cheung

The World Health Organization recommendations for the use of antibiotics in food-animal production are not reinforced by sound science and do not align with U.S. policy, states USDA acting chief scientist Chavonda Jacobs-Young.

In a guideline released Nov. 7, the WHO calls for farmers and the food industry to stop using antibiotics routinely to promote growth and prevent disease.

Jacobs-Young says, “The WHO guidelines are not in alignment with U.S. policy and are not supported by sound science. The recommendations erroneously conflate disease prevention with growth promotion in animals.”

Previously, WHO requested on-farm antibiotic use standards to be updated through a science-based process of CODEX. However, WHO released the new guidelines prematurely.

“The WHO previously requested that the standards for on-farm antibiotic use in animals be updated through a transparent, consensus, science-based process of CODEX,” says Jacobs-Young. “However, before the first meeting of the CODEX was held, the WHO released these guidelines, which according to language in the guidelines are based on ‘low-quality evidence,’ and in some cases, ‘very low-quality evidence.’”

In the United States, under current Food and Drug Administration policy, medically important antibiotics should not be used for growth promotion in animals. The FDA allows the use of antimicrobial drugs in food-animal production to treat, control and prevent disease under the oversight of licensed veterinarians.  

The USDA is committed to working with WHO and other essential organization to address antimicrobial resistance in humans and animals.

“USDA agrees that we need more data to assess progress on antimicrobial use and resistance, and we need to continue to develop alternative therapies for the treatment, control and prevention of disease in animals. We remain committed to addressing antimicrobial resistance in people and animals. We will continue to work with the WHO, World Organization for Animal Health, and Food and Agriculture Organization to promote antibiotic stewardship to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance,” states Jacobs-Young.

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