Day one of a two-day conference on the usage of antibiotics in poultry and livestock production at the 2013 International Production & Processing Expo included differing views from the U.S. and Europe on the nature of the antimicrobial resistance problem facing society and what should be done about it.

All agreed on the need for the judicious use of antibiotics in poultry and livestock production, and that antimicrobial resistance is a threat requiring a global response. But differences in approaches for accomplishing that end were highlighted in the sessions.

Representing the European perspective were Dr. Dik Mevius, University of Utrecht, and Dr. Albert Meijering, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, who called for the judicious use of antibiotics in poultry and livestock with an emphasis on the need for an overall reduction in the volume of antibiotics used. Mevius and Meijering shared information on how producers in the Netherlands have reduced the volume of antibiotics used in production by an estimated 51 percent through 2012 compared to 2009. The new target is to reduce usage by 70 percent in 2015.

Key elements in the Dutch reduction have included centralized (private) databases for prescription and use at the herd or flock level to allow for benchmarking, improvement and enforcement purposes. Ron Phillips, Animal Health Institute in the U.S., emphasized the importance of keeping flocks and herds healthy while practicing the judicious use of antibiotics. "We all want healthy food animals because it is important to food safety," he said.

Phillips pointed to the benefits of the use of antibiotics in poultry production, including flock health and welfare. Those also typically lead to greater food safety through greater bird uniformity and reduced fecal contamination, he said. He voiced support for Food and Drug Administration action to eliminate production claims for antibiotics in poultry and extended veterinary oversight. However, he said that sales of antibiotics are neither a measure of use nor an indicator of public health. What's more, he said few of the pathogens involved in antimicrobial resistance in humans are associated with food.

Mevius, on the other hand, said there is a relationship between antimicrobial resistance and the use of antibiotics in animals. Based on Dutch data, which showed between 84 percent and 100 percent of poultry meat positive for the extended spectrum beta-latamase antibiotics, he concluded, "There is an apparent animal attribution; poultry meat was considered to be the most likely source."