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US sees 33 percent drop in livestock antibiotic sales

The story behind the FDA's "2017 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals."

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In late 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its “Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals” report, tracking the domestic sales and distribution of all medically important antibiotics in 2017. The summary shows that U.S. antimicrobial sales dropped by 33 percent from its 2016 figure.

Even more impressive, the report cites a 41 percent reduction against 2015 numbers, when sales hit the highest level since they started collecting the data in 2009.

Because the report does not track actual drug usage, what does this number tell us about U.S. animal production?

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says it’s an indication the agency’s “efforts to support antimicrobial stewardship are having a significant impact.”

The dip in sales correlates with the FDA’s full enforcement of the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) in 2017 and the banning of antibiotics for growth promotion (AGP). According to the FDA, today, 95 percent of antibiotics used in animal production require a VFD.

Also, around this time, some of the poultry industry’s biggest players embraced the virtues and marketing boost of adopting antibiotic-free or “no-antibiotics-ever” production, and several of the largest food retailers and producers pledged to eliminate antibiotics from the meats they purchase and sell. The result: 2017 antibiotic sales for chicken declined by 47 percent.

With antimicrobial resistance fast becoming a “global health emergency,” the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) stress that the world’s poultry and livestock industries “handle antibiotics with care,” calling for increased proactive measures to prevent infections, better on-farm management and improved food safety.

Whether driven by consumer pressure, regulations or corporate ethics, strides toward the judicious use of antibiotics are ongoing, but U.S. animal production is moving the right direction.

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Looking for more information on antibiotic reduction strategies? Join us at the Feed Strategy Conference, held on February 13 at IPPE 2019. Charles L. Hofacre, president, Southern Poultry Research Group and University of Georgia professor emeritus, will share his “Considerations for Antibiotic-free Production.”

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