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Our Views

Our Views Columns

Date: 7/17/2014

Title: Antibiotic Resistance: The Conversation Continues

The topic of antibiotic resistance and the judicious use of all antibiotics continue to be part of the conversation in Washington, D.C. Antibiotic resistance is a multi-faceted and complex issue that must take into account all uses of antibiotics including human, companion animal and livestock. For animal agriculture, the foundation of our industries is the health of our animals. Cattle producers work closely with their veterinarians and animal health experts to implement comprehensive herd-health management plans. Preventing an illness is just as important as being able to control illness and treat animals when they are sick. To help guide these plans, cattle producers worked together with animal health experts to develop a series of industry guidance like the “Producer Guidelines of the Judicious Use of Antimicrobial Drugs” which is part of the Beef Quality Assurance Program. These guidelines are drafted by cattlemen in coordination with animal health experts, and utilize the most recent scientific information to further protect and maintain the health of our cattle. The information serves as industry guidance and has the ability to be modified as science, technology and knowledge evolves. Antimicrobial resistance is an important topic which impacts all living organisms. Everyone plays an important role to ensure that we are using human and animal health technologies in a judicious and responsible manner. 

In December 2013, the Food and Drug Administration, working with industry, released Guidance 209 and 213 and the Veterinarian Feed Directive. Guidance 209 called for the judicious use of [human] medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals. In effect, this guidance urged limiting medically-important antimicrobial drugs to uses in food-producing animals that are considered necessary for assuring animal health and limiting such drugs to uses in food-producing animals that include veterinary oversight or consultation.

Medically-important antimicrobials are defined by the FDA and a list of affected products can be found here. In turn, guidance 213 called for voluntary alignment with this principal and provided a road map for animal pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily remove the FDA approved conditions on this class of products (growth promotion or feed efficiency) from the market place. All technologies used in the cattle industry must be approved for use by the FDA after a rigorous and stringent approval process, requirements more stringent than those of human antibiotics, given their use in food-producing animals. The label is the law of the land and its specifications on the dosage, route of administration, duration and withdraw time carry the weight of the law. 

NCBA will continue to engage on behalf of our membership to ensure conversations in Washington are balanced and utilize the latest scientific information. For more than five years, NCBA has engaged and educated policy makers and their staff through our Beef 101 educational programs. This forum allows cattle producers, veterinarians, animal scientists and other experts to educate and bring awareness to the science behind our industry. This gives Congress the information they need to make informed decisions and allows them to ask questions of experts that shape legislation, ensuring the needs of producers, veterinarians and the cattle are met to maintain herd health. Recently, we have expanded our educational efforts to include the FDA Center for Veterinarian Medicine’s staff where we bring experts and cattle producers to Washington, D.C. to present the latest scientific information and answer any questions staff may have. By educating both policy makers and those responsible for writing regulations, we can help provide a background of reliable information to balance the misinformation that we often find in these complex conversations. While we continue to work on your behalf, we encourage you to find a way to help educate your Member of Congress and their staff about America’s cattle legacy.