FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Ron Phillips
Office: (202) 662-4130
Data Demonstrate Little to No Evidence That Antibiotic Use
in Food Animals Presents Any Significant Risk to Human Health
-- New publication finds antibiotic bans not based on risk assessment may be more harmful to
human and animal health -
Washington, D.C. (January 19, 2004) – A new peer-reviewed article raises concern that the banning of antibiotics in food animals may harm both human and animal health. The report, published this month in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, found there is little to no scientific evidence to suggest that the use of antibiotics in food animals negatively impacts human health.
"The scientific evidence shows that the actual risk of transfer of antibiotic resistant organisms from animals to humans caused by the use of antibiotics in food animals is extremely small and in some cases zero," said Ian Phillips, M.D., principal author and Emeritus Professor of Medical Microbiology at the medical school of Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospitals, University of London. “The European Union applied the ‘Precautionary Principle’ and set aside scientific evidence, and so made decisions about antibiotics that have in fact damaged animal health and not provided any benefits to human health. We need to advance science and risk assessments to help make sound, evidence-based and balanced decisions in the United States and around the world.”
The panel of experts, drawn from both human and animal health, found the debate over the potential of antibiotic resistance transfer from animal to humans has featured misinformation and a blurring of important distinctions. They critically reviewed more than 250 studies and available data in an attempt to draw distinctions between events that do happen, may happen, might happen and do not happen.
Surveillance data from Europe and the United States shows numerous disconnects in the patterns of resistant bacteria in animals and humans, making it unlikely that there is or has been widespread transference of resistant bacteria via the food supply. And, while a European ban on antibiotics to promote growth has not reduced antibiotic resistance levels in humans in Europe, U.S. data shows the incident of antibiotic resistant food borne pathogens is generally declining as has the number of cases caused by food-borne bacteria.
“After examining the extensive surveillance data available, no significant benefits to human health as a result of European ban are evident, while it is clear that resistance in food borne pathogens has decreased in the U.S.,” said Ronald N. Jones, M.D., co-author of the JAC report and Principal Investigator of the SENTRY Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance program, the world's largest database of antibiotic resistance.
A review of several risk assessments that have been conducted on specific antibiotics used in animals consistently showed extremely low levels of risk.
“We agree with the World Health Organization and the International Office of Epizootics that sound policy decisions must be based on scientific risk assessments that address the likely future human health consequences of proposed risk management actions. In practice, that means understanding and applying principles for prudent use of antibiotics and paying attention to surveillance and monitoring data for both antibiotic-susceptible and antibiotic-resistant illnesses caused by food-borne bacteria,” summarized Tony Cox, co-author and president of Cox Associates, an applied research company specializing in health risk analysis and operations research modeling. “Legislative and political efforts without sound science and quantitative assessment of their possible, adverse human health consequences are dangerous. If the United States follows the European ban then both animal and human health may be jeopardized.”
The report was developed by the independent advisory board to AHI, comprised of a group of human microbiologists, risk assessors, veterinarians and animal health experts, including Ian Phillips, M.D., FRCP, FRCPath, FFPHM, University of London; Ron Jones, M.D., The JONES Group/JMI Laboratories, North Liberty, IA; Mark Casewell, BSc, M.D., FRCP, FRCPath, University of London; Tony Cox, Ph.D., S.M., Cox Associates, an applied research company specializing in health risk analysis and operations research modeling, Denver, CO; Brad De Groot, M.S., D.V.M., Ph.D., Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, and Livestock Information Services, Callaway, NE; Christian Friis, D.V.M, Ph.D., Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Copenhagen, Denmark; Charles Nightingale, M.S., Ph.D., Hartford Hospital, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT; Rodney Preston, Ph.D., Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX; and John Waddell, D.V.M., M.B.A., Sutton Veterinary Clinic, Sutton, NE.
“Continued use of antibiotics in food animals is important to animal health and welfare and food safety,” said Dr. John Waddell, D.V.M., a Nebraska veterinarian who has toured several Danish pigs farms. “We will continue to follow the principles of prudent use and rely on surveillance and risk assessment to ensure safe use of antibiotics to keep animals healthy.”
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