Board opposes APHA resolution against nontherapeutic antimicrobial use in food animals

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A resolution by the American Public Health Association that encourages hospitals and other health care facilities to seek out food produced without the nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials drew opposition from the AVMA Executive Board at the board's meeting April 1-3.

On the basis of advice from the AVMA Steering Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance, the board voted to oppose the resolution. Dr. Arthur Tennyson, then assistant executive vice president of the AVMA (now retired), wrote a letter to the APHA explaining the AVMA's opposition to the resolution. The APHA resolution states: "Therefore the APHA: Encourages hospitals and health-care facilities, and other bulk purchasers of foodstuffs, to adopt procurement policies that encourage and, where feasible, require procurement of meat, fish, and dairy products produced without nontherapeutic use of medically important antibiotics."

In the letter, Dr. Tennyson noted the Association's recognition that antimicrobial resistance is an important problem in human medicine. He described the cooperative efforts the AVMA has joined to limit the development of antimicrobial resistance in animals, including supporting funding for the Federal Interagency Action Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance.

He said the AVMA couldn't support the resolution, however, for several reasons. The resolution does not address the importance of sanitary preparation of food as a means of preventing foodborne infections, it doesn't define "nontherapeutic use" and "medically important antibiotics," and there is no system to verify whether nontherapeutic antimicrobials were used in the production of food.

Additionally, Dr. Tennyson wrote, the policy accompanying the resolution doesn't provide a balanced view of the scientific literature, and doesn't acknowledge the remedies provided by the Food and Drug Administration's Guidance for Industry #152, "Ensuring the Safety of Antimicrobial New Animal Drugs with Regard to Their Microbiological Effects on Bacteria of Human Health Concern."

The letter also recommended that the APHA reject the resolution.