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Antibiotic Use in Animals an Issue in Iowa

October 13, 2010

DES MOINES, Iowa - Debate is swirling over the routine treatment of huge concentrations of cattle, hogs and poultry with antibiotics, to promote growth and prevent disease. It's a problem in Iowa, too, according to opponents of the practice. They say even as the government moves to regulate their routine use in animals raised for human consumption, the negative effects on consumers show that much more needs to be done.

Medical evidence shows such use has led to antibiotic resistance in humans. Bob Martin, with the Pew Environment Group, says these drugs should only be used to treat sick animals.

"You shouldn't be giving these important, life-saving antibiotics, important for human medicine antibiotics, to animals on a daily basis because they're overcrowded."

A top animal health expert in Iowa points out that routine drug use in animals helps keep them healthy, although he agrees the medications should not be overused. Scott Hurd, an associate professor in the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says producers need to protect sick animals, but he thinks the use of antibiotics for growth promotion is falling out of favor.

"The particular use that FDA has labeled as production or growth promotion - it's likely most of that is going to go away. Fewer pharmaceutical companies are promoting it; fewer farmers are using it."

Martin, a former head of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has studied the problem for years and recently came out with two guidelines that he sees as insufficient and ambiguous.

"We believe they will not reduce antibiotic use at all. We feel that the FDA has the authority to take more aggressive action in curtailing the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animal production."

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA