AVMA speaks to Congress about livestock health issues

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Dr. Christine Hoang testifies before Congress
Dr. Christine Hoang of the AVMA tells a House subcommittee that additional regulation of the uses of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine and animal agriculture isn't necessary.

The AVMA testified before a House subcommittee Sept. 25 on advancements in animal health in the livestock industry, describing for lawmakers progress made improving public health and reaffirming the importance of treating food animals with antimicrobial medicines.

Addressing the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry, Dr. Christine Hoang, assistant director of the AVMA Scientific Activities Division, explained that notable safeguards to animal and human health have emerged as a result of veterinarians' work with livestock.

"Our profession has made many advances in animal health and food safety—in areas such as the development and implementation of animal disease control programs and biotechnology," Dr. Hoang said. "Other successes through collaborative efforts include a decline in foodborne illness from meat and poultry products as well as a decline in the prevalence of foodborne pathogens, including Salmonella, associated with meat and poultry and resistance of those organisms."

The hearing also covered the judicious use of antimicrobials by veterinarians and whether human antimicrobial resistance can be linked to use of antimicrobials to treat food animals. The AVMA testimony in June at a Senate hearing on antimicrobial resistance addressed concerns that using antimicrobials in food animals leads to human resistance (see JAVMA, Aug. 1, 2008).

Dr. Hoang reiterated the benefits of maintaining animal health with the use of antimicrobials. "Several risk assessments demonstrate a very low risk to human health from the use of antimicrobials in food animals, and more significantly, some models predict an increased human health burden if the use is withdrawn," she testified.

Additionally, Dr. Hoang told the subcommittee the AVMA does not believe that additional regulation of the uses of antimicrobials or other therapeutic agents in veterinary medicine and animal agriculture is necessary. She also spoke about the importance of the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank—a critical but chronically underfunded program on which veterinarians, livestock producers, state and federal regulators, and extension specialists depend.

The AVMA's written testimony is posted on the Association's food safety advocacy Web site, www.keepourfoodsafe.org.