What is the context and issue?
Drugs we use to treat infections are becoming ineffective because of overuse of antibiotics, both in human medicine and in our food production system. If unchecked, an estimated 10 million people will die annually in 2050, more than the number of people dying of cancer each year today. While efforts are underway to moderate and restrict use of antimicrobials in human medicine, there has been relatively less attention paid to the widespread and often casual use of these important medicines in food-animal production.
As explained in this short video by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), serious concerns have arisen about how antibiotic overuse in animals can contribute to the development of resistant bacteria in humans. While treating sick animals is important, life-saving antibiotics should not be used for growth promotion. And the routine preventative use of antibiotics must be curbed and not be used as a substitute for raising animals under better hygienic conditions.
The 2018 Prince Mahidol Awards Conference in Bangkok focuses on the challenge of emerging infectious diseases, of which antimicrobial resistance plays a key role. Charged by the UN General Assembly to provide practical guidance on how to address this challenge, the Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (IACG) also is meeting alongside this conference. Through this campaign, we hope to support and shape their efforts on using antibiotics responsibly in our food system.
- We call on the IACG to incorporate the 2017 WHO guidelines on the use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals in its report to Member States and the United Nations for adoption globally.
- We urge the IACG to bring civil society’s voice into the discussions of antibiotic use in food production.
- We encourage the continued inclusion of animal health, agriculture and environment as central components in the fight against AMR.
WHO Guidelines on the Use of Medically Important Antibiotics in Food-Producing Animals
Actions to support efforts to reduce antibiotic use in our food production system
1. Support consumer campaigns that demand our restaurants and food retail outlets source food animal products using antibiotics responsibly.
- US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG): join the McDonald’s campaign and use the consumer power to curb the routine use of antibiotics in beef and pork
- Antibiotic Scorecard and Chain Reaction report: learn who to target next from US PIRG & the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
- Center for Science and Environment (CSE) Double Standards report: what must the fast food industry and regulatory authorities do next?
- Previous successes at KFC and Subway: what can we learn from NRDC, US PIRG and Keep Antibiotics Working campaigns?
- ReAct Asia-Pacific Antimicrobial Use in Food-Animal Production: Problems, Solutions, Challenges report: Problem overview and way forward
2. Change how hospitals, schools and universities procure their food from sources that use antibiotics responsibly.
- Promoting appropriate antibiotic use as a healthcare professional: become part of US PIRG’s Health Professional Action Network and Health Care Without Harm’s Clinician Champions in Comprehensive Antibiotic Stewardship program and adopt the Antibiotic Stewardship Through Food Animal Agriculture Toolkit Module.
- Reducing antibiotic use in the food sourced by our schools: learn more about the Urban Schools Food Alliance and their success in demanding antibiotic-free school food in partnership with NRDC
3. Demand that policymakers take action on how our antibiotics are used in the food system.
- Support the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics’ European Union-wide campaign aiming to reduce farm antibiotic use by 50% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050.
- Respond to the FDA’s analysis of antibiotic sales for animal use: what can consumers do to accelerate positive trends?
- Ask lawmakers and representatives to follow the example of the US States of Maryland and California taking action against antibiotic overuse in food production.
- Remain aware of the issue and support public and civil society driven action: Letter to the Interagency Coordination Group (IACG) by ARC members and partners