U.S. federal drug regulators have restricted the use of a class of antibiotics known as cephalosporins for livestock, including chickens, turkeys, cattle and pigs, because they say such practices may have contributed to a growing threat in people of bacterial infections that are resistant to treatment.
This decision has been met with concern in the agriculture industry, including the poultry industry, which sees antibiotics as a valuable tool in ensuring animal health and in producing wholesome food for the consuming public, according to Tom Super, National Chicken Council vice president of communications.
“We share the concerns of others that the FDA’s rule on extralabel drug use will take medical decisions to treat animals out of the hands of veterinarians," said Super. "We question any substantive link or scientific basis between veterinary use of cephalosporins and antibiotic resistance in humans.”
According to Super, antibiotics are used sparingly in chicken production, and then only if they are approved by the FDA. A majority of the antibiotics, such as Ceftiofur, are not used in human medicine, meaning the threat of creating resistance is essentially reduced to zero.
“Consumers should know that chicken is safe, wholesome and that all chicken produced in the U.S. is inspected by the [U.S. Department of Agriculture]," said Super. "Inspectors test meat samples for chemical and antimicrobial residues — poultry must be in compliance with USDA standards. When antibiotics are used in chicken production, strict withdrawal periods must be followed before the birds are processed for food."