Animal antibiotics improve food safety, coalition tells White House

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By Tom Johnston on 8/17/2009


A coalition of 20 organizations representing food producers sent a letter to the White House on Friday stating the importance of the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry as lawmakers mull a bill that would curb their use in food-producing animals.

"Farmers and ranchers strive daily to provide best possible management of their animals through superior genetics, nutrition, veterinary care, housing and handling," the coalition wrote. "Optimal animal health and welfare leads to production of safe, affordable and abundant food, critical to U.S. food security. Maintaining the health of U.S. herds and flocks requires farmers and ranchers to have all approved safe and effective technologies, including animal health products, available to us."

The coalition also wrote that arguments against the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry, including that such use contributes to an increase in human resistance, are not supported by any conclusive scientific evidence.

"In fact, a growing body of evidence shows just the opposite, namely the responsible, professional use of these products reduces pathogens in and on foods, enhancing animal welfare while not contributing to resistance," the groups said, citing a 2004 study by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Outlawing antibiotics from on-farm use not only would jeopardize food safety but also contradict President Obama's stated food safety goals, which include prevention of food-borne illness, the coalition wrote.

"President Obama's repeated pledge to base his Administration's regulatory decisions on 'the best available science' and 'the rule of law' gives us confidence the Administration will not embrace an ill-advised, politically motivated call to curb on-farm uses of antibiotics," the letter states.

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