Europe Bans Antibiotics In Farm Animal Feed - Call For Same In US
BBC News
Antibiotics are used in animal feed to fatten livestock up for sale
Four antibiotics widely used in animal feed as growth promoters have been banned across Europe - in a move that could cost the pharmaceutical industry millions of pounds a year.
The ban, triggered by fears that continued use of the antibiotics could reduce bacterial resistance in humans, was endorsed by twelve EU agriculture ministers including the UK's Nick Brown.
Mr Brown said the decision was necessary on consumer health grounds.
"These antibiotics are not dangerous in themselves - but the scientific evidence gathered by the European Commission, which parallels research work in the UK, is that human resistance to medicines is reduced."
No-one voted against the move - Denmark and Sweden already ban the targeted drugs - but Belgium, Spain and Portugal abstained. That left a comfortable qualified majority decision for a ban which will be phased in over six months.
In Britain, the four antibiotics - Tysolin Phosphate, Bacitracin Zinc, Spiramycin and Virginiamycin - will be definitively banned by 1 July, 1999.
Mr Brown said he welcomed the decision, but a backlash is now possible from farmers who benefit from the growth-promoting properties of the drugs which are fed to pigs and poultry to fatten them up for sale.
The same drugs are used in humans to counter illness, but it is now claimed that consumers absorbing the drugs through white meat will be more resistant to their bacteria-killing effects when taken directly.
The main manufacturers of the animal antibiotics, were said to be contemplating a legal challenge to the ban.
Mr Brown said: "If there is legal action it will be in the European Court of Justice and Europe stands ready to defend its decision."
Asked about claims from the pharmaceutical industry that there is no scientific justification for the ban, Mr Brown insisted: "The scientific advice that I have received is that the Commission case is sustainable."
Further bans possible
Four other antibiotics similarly used in animal feed in Europe are now being examined by EU experts and may also be recommended for a ban, officials said.
Fifteen other antibiotics have already been banned in the EU for similar reasons.
About 15% of all antibiotics used in the 15 EU member states go into animal feed - amounting to some 1,600 tonnes of antibiotics entering the human system via pork and chicken meals every year.
Concerns remain that imported meat is still coming into Europe from animals reared using the same drugs. Mr Brown said it was a difficult trade issue and was now being studied by the Commission.
Farmers were disappointed at the European decision, claiming that it could give an unfair advantage to farmers who use the growth promoting chemicals in livestock outside Europe.
The National Farmers Union said on Monday that it had been working with other food and agriculture organisations to produce a viable strategy for the withdrawal of the drugs in animal feed and had been hoping that their report could be finished before the European vote was taken.
Animal welfare concerns
An NFU spokesman said: "It cannot be denied that antibiotics have brought enormous benefits for animal health and welfare for many decades. We are concerned that this ban will pose serious welfare problems."
The NFU explained that because of the withdrawal of the antibiotics taking place over just six months they were concerned about the effects on animals which had been fed on products containing the drugs.
The NFU said it was unaware of any scientific justification for the ban but did not oppose it on those grounds.
Instead it had wanted the drugs phased out over a longer period to ensure that animal welfare standards were maintained and the livelihoods of feed manufacturers maintained.
However the ban was welcomed by the Consumers' Association because of "the need to tackle the growing problem of bacterial antibiotic resistance."
A spokesman added that the association was pleased that Mr Brown had adopted the "precautionary principle" in a matter that had implications for consumer safety.
US Group Calls For Antibiotic Ban In Livestock
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Farm ministers in the European Union (EU) have voted to ban the use of four antibiotics in animal feed, and a consumer advocacy group would like to see the United States do the same.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Washington, DC, issued a statement Tuesday urging the US Food and Drug Administration to take similar action. The group also issued a report earlier this year with the same message, namely that ''daily feeding of antibiotics to livestock can cause bacteria to develop resistance'' to antibiotics, resulting in difficult-to-treat human infections.
The EU banned antibiotics in animal feed due to the concern that their use could promote the development of such antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The EU ban, which will take effect on July 1, 1999, applies to bacitracin zinc, spiramycin, virginiamycin, and tylosin phosphate, as reported by Reuters Health on Monday.
"The EU's ban on four antibiotics used in animal feed is a sensible follow-up to the World Health Organization's 1997 recommendation that farmers stop feeding low levels of antibiotics to animals destined for the dinner table,'' said staff scientist Patricia Lieberman in a statement released by CSPI.
"In the United States, almost one third of all antibiotics sold are used to promote the growth of livestock,'' Lieberman noted. "...It's high time that the Food and Drug Administration kicked livestock off the drug habit by banning agricultural uses of antibiotics that jeopardize human health.''
Current US Meat Testing Is Insufficient For
Fecal Contamination

Fox News
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Meat inspectors say random testing for bacteria lets carcasses zip past them carrying loads of fecal contamination.
They also say relying on companies to do their own testing isn't meeting the federal goal of zero tolerance of fecal contamination. Inspectors told the Agriculture Department they are overwhelmed. They say that, in many cases, carcasses go by at thousands or more an hour.
Inspectors say the new system is an improvement over the old one. The old system relied almost entirely on detecting defects by sight, smell or feel.
But inspectors say the new system of microbial testing leaves a large part of the responsibility to the companies.
An industry group counters that meatpackers have incentives to produce clean meat.
Reports of discussions between USDA and a meat inspectors union were published by the Des Moines, Iowa, Sunday Registe