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Agricultural News

GAO Issues Yet Another Report on Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture

Wed, 14 Sep 2011 15:07:48 CDT

GAO Issues Yet Another Report on Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture A report issued today by the Government Accountability Office concluded there isn't sufficient data to study a link between antibiotic use in food animals to antibiotic resistance in humans.

The report comes amid attempts in Congress to restrict use of antibiotics in food animals; supporting legislators point to other reports claiming there is such a link.

GAO concluded USDA and Health and Human Services have collected some data on antibiotic use in food animals and on resistant bacteria in animals and retail meat, but said "these data lack crucial details necessary to examine trends and understand the relationship between use and resistance."

"Not only is there no scientific study linking antibiotic use in food animals to antibiotic resistance in humans, as the U.S. pork industry has continually pointed out, but there isn't even adequate data to conduct a study," National Pork Producers Council President Doug Wolf said in a news release issued in response to the report.

"The GAO report on antibiotic resistance issued today confirms this..." he added.

NPPC noted the pork industry has long supported the federal antibiotic-resistance program, and that pork producers administer the drugs responsibly under veterinary supervision under FDA-approved protocols to help their animals stay healthy and produce safe pork.

Meanwhile, the leading critic in Congress when it comes to antibioitc use by animal agriculture, Conresswoman Louise Slaughter, says the GAO affirms her contention that antibiotic must be curtailed. The Congresswoman has reiterated her call to limit the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals after this study acknowledging that federal agencies are not doing enough to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria to public health.

"This study reveals how unprepared we are to deal with the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria and the American public should be outraged," said Slaughter. "We have had two massive meat recalls just in the last month showing salmonella strains resistant to antibiotics. Clearly there is an increasing public health threat here and we need more than 'limited progress' - we need concrete solutions like those proposed in my bill. I very much appreciate the GAO for conducting this multi-year-long study and think it is necessary that their findings be looked at carefully."

The GAO report notes HHS and USDA have worked to research alternatives to current antibiotic use practices and to educate producers and veterinarians on appropriate use of antibiotics. However, the extent of such efforts are unclear because the agencies haven't assessed their effectiveness, limiting their ability to identify gaps where more research may be needed.

Click here to access the full report from the GAO.



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