The World Health Organization has a stern warning for the meat industry: stop using so many antibiotics on healthy livestock unless you want a global crisis. For decades, farmers have been adding the drugs to animals’ food and water to boost growth rate and stave off disease.
But the habit has largely contributed to the growing antibiotic resistance problem affecting humans worldwide, the international health body warns. The WHO urged governments to force the meat industry to follow the 2006 European regulations that bar farmers from using the drugs to boost livestock growth.
The rules also require farmers to use antibiotics only after an official diagnosis with a medical problem. Livestock owners should also use only certain antibiotics that are no longer critical to the human health.
The George Washington University’s Antibiotic Resistance Action Center praised the European guidelines for making a “huge difference” when it comes to antibiotic resistance. Some states comply with the WHO rules while others have a total disregard.
WHO Could Make Antibiotics Guidelines Mandatory
Countries that condone antibiotic use on farms cannot be penalized as the guidelines are not mandatory. In other words, the governments that forgo the recommendations face no penalties on an international level.
The European task force focused on antibiotics use across various industries could soon turn them into international standards. The issue will be discussed later this month.
In the United States, farmers have been urged to refrain from using antibiotics on healthy animals since 1977. However, because many of them are concerned that without the practice they could become less competitive, they have continued using the drugs for decades.
In the U.S. alone, the food industry uses 34.3 million pounds of the drugs on livestock every year, the latest report from the Food and Drug Administration shows. Of those drugs, 21.4 million are considered antibiotics that humans cannot live without in case of severe infections.
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