Addressing a complex challenge

by MEAT+POULTRY Staff
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The White House
Industry groups gather in Washington for a White House forum on antibiotic use in food production.

WASHINGTON – More than 150 major food companies, retailers, and human and animal health stakeholders are gathering today in Washington, DC, for the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship with the goal of implementing changes over the next five years to slow the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, detect resistant strains, preserving the efficacy of existing antibiotics and preventing the spread of resistant infections.

Among the organizations attending are the North American Meat Institute Foundation (NAMIF), Elanco Animal Health, Zoetis and Merck Animal Health. Meat and poultry producers and food retailers participating in the forum include Foster Farms, McDonald's Corp., Panera Bread, Tyson Foods, Inc. Smithfield Foods and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

“The White House event is an important opportunity to bring together leaders from human and animal medicine to address one of the most complex challenges facing medical doctors and veterinarians,” said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter in statement. “We hope it will foster a stronger understanding of antibiotic resistance and help lead to meaningful steps to best ensure both human and animal health.”

NAMI said it has taken an active leadership role in addressing and communicating the issue of antibiotic use and resistance to respond to customer and consumer concerns and remains committed to continuing those communications efforts. NAMI also said it supports ongoing and future research for therapeutic options and further understanding how antimicrobial resistance is developed and transmitted among humans, animals and other living organisms.

Greenfield, Ind.-based Elanco President Jeff Simmons will participate in a panel discussion at the forum. Concurrently, Simmons is unveiling the company’s multi-faceted approach to combat the growing concern about antibiotic resistance. 

Jeff Simmons, president, Elanco

Jeff Simmons, president, Elanco Animal Health

“In the next few decades, demand for animal protein will climb 60 percent as population increases and the global middle class expands by three billion people,” Simmons said in a press release. “These numbers are important, because we’re already overusing the Earth’s resources, consuming about 1.5 times the natural resources we should use in a year. Delivering safe, sufficient, affordable protein to feed the growing population has never been at greater risk.”

Simmons noted that animal welfare remains at risk. “Today, we have emerging diseases on every continent, including the extreme of avian influenza right here in the United States,” he added. “Beyond that, nearly three in four cattle experience symptoms of respiratory disease at some point in their lives and one in six dairy cattle experience mastitis in their productive lives. It is our industry’s responsibility to keep animals healthy and treat the ones that get sick while safeguarding antibiotics for future generations through responsible use.”

Elanco has committed to an eight-step antibiotic stewardship plan that ensures the responsible use of antibiotics, reduces shared-class antibiotic use and replaces antibiotics with alternatives.

The NAMI Foundation said it has supported research that reduces and ultimately eliminates multidrug-resistant pathogens from meat and poultry products. The Foundation is committed to continuing to work with USDA to develop actionable research priorities in the area of antibiotic use and resistance.

“Consumer health is the driving force in the production of meat and poultry products, which not only includes offering nutrient dense protein food products but also improving and maintaining the safety of meat and poultry our industry produces,” said Betsy Booren, Foundation president, in a statement. “For that reason, we are committed to addressing the concerns pertaining to antimicrobial resistance.”

In a related matter, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule in its strategy to promote the judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals. The strategy will bring the use of these drugs under veterinary supervision so that they are used only when necessary for assuring animal health.

The VFD final rule outlines the process for authorizing use of VFD drugs (animal drugs intended for use in or on animal feed that require the supervision of a licensed veterinarian) and provides veterinarians in all states with a framework for authorizing the use of medically important antimicrobials in feed when needed for specific animal health purposes.

“The actions the FDA has taken to date represent important steps toward a fundamental change in how antimicrobials can be legally used in food-producing animals,” said Michael R. Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, in a press release. “The VFD final rule takes another important step by facilitating veterinary oversight in a way that allows for the flexibility needed to accommodate the diversity of circumstances that veterinarians encounter, while ensuring such oversight is conducted in accordance with nationally consistent principles.”

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