Antibiotic resistance in microorganisms may interfere with disease control in people and animals. Although antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon, the population of resistant microorganisms is increased by introduction of antibiotics or other resistance promoters into an environment. Therefore, it is important to carefully monitor resistance trends wherever these substances are present.
Key considerations regarding the use of antimicrobials in food animals include the following:
- Most antimicrobials now require a veterinary prescription for purchase and use, including an ongoing veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR). This change requires livestock producers to work closely with licensed veterinarians for authorized use of antimicrobial drugs. Guidelines for both producers and manufacturers have also been issued by the FDA.1,2,3
- Antibiotics are used in the care of food animals for disease treatment and disease prevention.
- In some situations, providing antibiotics to livestock is particularly effective in decreasing mortality and morbidity and thereby increasing animal welfare.
- Antibiotic use can lead to resistant pathogens, but the extent to which antibiotic use in livestock production contributes to the overall problem is not fully understood.
- Some classes of antibiotics used in food animals are not currently used in human medicine, so limiting their use would not be expected to affect antibiotic resistance in humans.
- Antibiotic use in food animals is strategically targeted, following judicious use guidelines based on reliable evidence developed by the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations.
- To decrease antibiotic use, food animal producers have implemented an impressive array of approaches to keep animals healthy and reduce the need for antibiotics, including all-in/all-out animal flow, rigorous biosecurity measures to keep diseases out of farms, intense sanitation, and use of vaccines. Veterinary commodity groups have developed judicious use guidelines for antimicrobial use that are readily available on the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association,4 as are the AVMA’s own policies.5,6
- The world must double food production in the next four decades. With judicious use, antibiotics can contribute to efficient food production to meet this demand.
The Federation of Animal Science Societies (FASS) strongly supports the judicious use of antibiotics in food animal care consistent with the health and welfare of the animals; with preserving the value of antibiotics in protecting human and animal health; and with efficient use of the earth’s resources in food production.
- Support research and science-based policy development to protect animal health and preserve medically important antimicrobials for agricultural and human health applications.
- Conduct research (monitor developments) on the relationship between antibiotic use in animal agriculture, environment, and antibiotic resistance in human medicine.
- Support ongoing efforts to monitor level of antibiotic resistance in humans, animals, and the environment.
- Develop strategically targeted regulations for antibiotic use in food animals that are focused on specific risks, specific classes of antibiotics, and specific uses to most effectively protect human and animal health.
- Continue the use of antibiotics in food animal populations where it is demonstrably efficacious in preventing and treating animal disease, promoting animal health and welfare.
- Support educational programs for livestock producers, consumers, and veterinarians to increase knowledge and understanding of the judicious use of antimicrobial products.
- Develop and enforce existing regulatory systems that support use of antibiotics for disease prevention where justified.
Approved by the FASS Science Policy Committee on May 25, 2023
Adopted by the FASS Board of Directors on June 23, 2023
For more information, please contact FASSPolicyStatements@assochq.org
2Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) | FDA
3The Ins and Outs of Extra-Label Drug Use in Animals: A Resource for Veterinarians | FDA
4Search | American Veterinary Medical Association (avma.org)