The government of Malaysia is being urged to ban the use of antibiotics in animal feed and to create a national system to monitor use of antibiotics in food animals after the publication of data revealing "alarmingly" high levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in chicken.

The call has come from the Consumers Association of Penang, which says that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animal feeds has caused the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria in farm animals, posing a serious health threat to consumers.

It points to a study carried out by Malaysia's Department of Veterinary Services in 2012 which found that half of domestic chickens carried bacteria resistant to ampicillin, sulphonamide and tetracycline. The report found that the situation was worse in imported chicken.

The association notes that there are 87 antibiotic drugs registered for use in Malaysia and most are used in pig and poultry farms. However, more than half of the active ingredients registered for food animals with the Ministry of Health are not recommended for veterinary use by the World Health Organization.


The association adds that the high level of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in meat indicated that there are problems with the Livestock Farm Practices Scheme (SALT), implemented to ensure that farms adhere to Good Animal Husbandry Practices (GAHP).

SALT certification is awarded to farms that meet GAHP criteria, along with animal health management, biosecurity, good infrastructure, and prudent use of drugs. The scheme covers all types of livestock.

Yet more than half of the chickens sampled from one SALT-certified farm in the Department of Veterinary Services Study had bacteria resistant to three classes of antibiotic.