Medicine and Antibiotic Use on the Farm

Properly used medicines keep animals healthy and food safe

Keeping animals healthy is a top priority for farmers and veterinarians; healthy animals mean a safe and wholesome food supply and in turn, healthy people. Veterinarians and farmers work together to create flock and herd health management programs to prevent diseases before they develop and spread. These programs are tailored to individual farms and their livestock and poultry, taking into account how and when to vaccinate for species-specific diseases and how to administer parasite controls. To prevent and manage infectious diseases, it is sometimes necessary for veterinarians and farmers to turn to antibiotics. Research has shown the proper use of antibiotics can keep food animals healthy and reduce the potential for harmful bacterial contamination of finished meat products.

Animal production practices include guidelines to ensure that animal antibiotics are used in a manner that minimizes the development of antibiotic resistance in human health. Under new FDA guidance, medically important antibiotics will be labeled for use in food animals only to treat, control and prevent disease and illness and will be used exclusively under the supervision and prescription of a licensed veterinarian. The guidelines specifically outline the appropriate uses of antibiotics:

Disease prevention: emphasizes appropriate husbandry and hygiene, routine health examinations and vaccinations.

First-line therapy: veterinarians discourage the use of antibiotics as first-line therapy that are important in treating
serious human or animal infections.

Prioritize treatment: limit antibiotic use to sick or at-risk animals to treat the fewest number of animals possible.

Scientific analysis: maintain accurate records of treatment and analyze the outcomes to evaluate therapeutic regimens.

Historically, some FDA-approved antibiotics had been used to promote growth and weight gain in certain farm and flock animals. The FDA has issued two Guidances, or instruction documents (Guidances 209 and 213), that direct companies, veterinarians, and farmers to discontinue use of antibiotics for these purposes by January 2017.

For a comprehensive look at how, when and why antibiotics are used
on the farm, see:

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approval and regulation of
antibiotics used in animals