Concerns have been expressed by the International Poultry Council (IPC) about new guidelines issued this week by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that call on the global poultry and meat industries to stop the routine use of antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention.
The IPC says it is very worried that the WHO guidelines inappropriately tie the hands of producers and limit their options for using antimicrobials for prevention, control and treatment of diseases based on specific need.
It argues that the ability of a trained veterinarian to prescribe the correct treatment at the right time is paramount for minimising antimicrobial use and ensuring a viable supply of healthy birds vital for a safe global food supply.
In a statement, the IPC added: “In developing guidelines that impact human and animal life, one would trust that “evidence” drives policy recommendations and not “associations” as done in this WHO approach. The guidelines are framed by an article published this week in the Lancet Planetary Health and, as WHO noted, is based on “low quality evidence” or in some instance “very low quality-evidence.”
“The IPC remained committed to a “one health” collaborative approach that balances the knowledge and scientific expertise of all stakeholders to ensure we act responsibly in using all antimicrobials – for human and for animal needs. The IPC encourages WHO to be more inclusive of the veterinary community in its work so its deep expertise can guide proper antimicrobial use and animal care.”
The IPC’s comments come seven months after it published its landmark Position Statement on Antimicrobial Use and Antimicrobial Stewardship Principles, which, it argues, charts a path for the global poultry industry to follow the responsible and efficacious use of antimicrobials in poultry production, based on scientific, evidence-based approach.
The WHO guidelines on use of medically important antimicrobials in food producing animals include:
• An overall reduction in use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals;
• Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for growth promotion;
• Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for prevention of infectious diseases that have not yet been clinically diagnosed;
• Antimicrobials classified as critically important for human medicine should not be used for control of the dissemination of a clinically diagnosed infectious disease identified within a group of food-producing animals.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said: “A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak. Strong, sustained action across all sectors is vital if we are to turn back the tide of antimicrobial resistance and keep the world safe.”
Dr Kazuaki Miyagishima, director of the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses at WHO, added: “Scientific evidence demonstrates that overuse of antibiotics in animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance.
“The volume of antibiotics used in animals is continuing to increase worldwide, driven by a growing demand for foods of animal origin, often produced through intensive animal husbandry,” he added.