Monday, April 11, 2011

Data from Denmark on antibiotics for hogs

Denmark several years ago banned non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry.  This policy allows veterinarians to use antibiotics on animals who need the treatment, but it prevents the use of antibiotics in much larger quantities merely for growth promotion [Update: this post revised slightly to reflect that the ban affected all livestock and poultry, not just hogs].  Non-therapeutic use, which is common in the United States, threatens the future health of both farm animals and humans as microbes become resistant to the powerful medicines.  The Danish experience shows that the ban on non-therapeutic use worked just fine.

Ralph Loglisci of the Center for a Livable Future reports at Grist and the CLF blog.
The editors of Scientific American recently encouraged U.S. hog farmers to "follow Denmark and stop giving farm animals low-dose antibiotics." Sixteen years ago, in order to reduce the threat of increased development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in their food system and the environment, Denmark phased in an antibiotic growth promotant ban in food animal production. Guess what? According to Denmark's Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries the ban is working and the industry has continued to thrive. The government agency found that Danish livestock and poultry farmers used 37 percent less antibiotics in 2009 than in 1994, leading to overall reductions of antimicrobial resistance countrywide.
Notice that the Danish ban is not a radical propopsal. It still allows a large amount of antibiotic use, as needed, and this therapeutic use has grown proportionately as the Danish industry has thrived and grown since the ban. What the ban accomplished was getting rid of the worst excesses in previous years. It is a sign of dysfunction in the American political system that similar proposals have been blocked here.

Source: CLF blog.  Click if needed for larger image.

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