“Antibiotics are a precious resource. There are not many new ones in the pipeline and the more we use them the faster we will lose them.”
The message from Patrick Wall, Professor of Public Health at UCD, at a recent conference organized my MSD Animal Health was clear, “Inappropriate and overuse of antibiotics leads to the generation of bugs that are resistant and the fear is we will have super bugs with no antibiotics that can treat them.”
The conference took place today, Thursday 25th May, in Dublin. Professor Wall was one of the speakers at the conference, where he spoke about the topic of antibiotic resistance in humans and animals. He said that some of the major food service companies like Mc Donald’s and Subway are setting the agenda on the use of antibiotics, especially in food producing animals. They did this by pledging to use meat from livestock that have never received antibiotics.
Mr. Wall said “In the US, McDonalds has announced it is moving to antibiotic-free chicken and Subway already claims it is using antibiotic-free chicken and has committed to do the same with turkey over the next two to three years and with beef and pork by 2025.
“The marketing people in these companies are responding to consumer concerns about the overuse of antibiotics but it may not be possible for the technical people to deliver on this pledge,” he said.
Professor Wall also offered data to support these findings, saying that 80% of antibiotics used in agriculture are used in intensively farmed animals. He added that while Ireland is at the lower end of the antibiotic usage league because of its relatively low concentration of factory farming, there is still no room for complacency.
MR wall also stated that “Antibiotic resistant superbugs are on the rise. Resistance is not a pathogen problem nor is it a poultry or a pig problem. It is a people problem.”
Before adding that “The only way to reduce antibiotic use to the minimum is to have healthier livestock. If we control disease we will have no need for antibiotics. They should not be used as an excuse for optimum livestock husbandry.
He said there are other alternatives to relying solely upon antibiotics saying that “The health of animals can be improved through breeding disease resistant livestock, utilizing optimum nutrition, strict biosecurity on the farms and strategic immunisation strategies. When antibiotics have to be used, it is vital that the right dose of the right product is administered at the right time,”
Mr. Wall also said the progressive companies have an antibiotic stewardship policy which clearly demonstrates to consumers that the food they purchase has come from animals that have been treated with the minimal level of antibiotics, based on the best veterinary advice and the highest standards of animal welfare. And that this should be the norm for all retailers and food service companies.