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Email Content: Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

2020 FDA Report on Antimicrobials in Food-Producing Animals


In mid-December 2021, the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine published a summary report on antibiotic use in livestock entitled Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed in 2020 for Use in Food-Producing Animals.  The report should be considered in relation to FDA Guidance for Industry: Documents #213 and #152 that classified antibiotic classes as either “medically important for human therapy” or “not medically important”.  From 2017 onwards, veterinary feed directives (VFDs) or prescriptions were required for feed additives or water-administered antibiotics respectively.


The report documented usage of all medically important antibiotics in 2020 amounting to 6,002,056 kg.  This value was three percent lower than in 2019 and 27 percent lower compared to 2011.  Among the medically important antibiotics, tetracyclines predominated at 65.8 percent of use among the nine classes of medically important drugs.  Penicillins, the second largest use class, represented 12.7 percent of antibiotics used in food animal production.  Macrolides comprised 7.2 percent, aminoglycosides, 5.4 percent, and sulfonamides, 4.7 percent.  The FDA documented ionophore use of 3,619,265 kg with these drugs classified as non-medically important. Ionophores comprised 81.4 percent of the non-medically important drugs used for food animal production.  Ionophore use was down 15 percent from 2019 and 12 percent from 2011.


In reviewing antibiotic usage by species, chicken represented 2.3 percent of the 2020 total and turkeys 11.5 percent.  Both cattle and swine consumed 40.8 percent respectively of antibiotic use.  The use of antibiotics in chicken was down 27 percent from 2019 and 72 percent from 2016.  Turkey use was up seven percent from 2019 but nine percent lower than in 2016.


For chickens, tetracycline use was down 29 percent from 2019 and 63 percent from 2016.  For turkeys, tetracycline use was up 24 percent from 2019 and up three percent from 2016.  For penicillins, turkey use increased three percent from 2019, but was down eight percent from 2016.  Macrolide use in chickens declined by 20 percent from 2019 and 89 percent from 2016.


Of the medically important classes of antibiotics for all species, 62 percent was administered in feed under a VFD and 30.5 percent in water under prescription.


For 2020, 20.265 million metric tons of RTC chicken was produced with use of 141,793 kg of medically important antibiotics.  This corresponds to an antibiotic use rate of 6.9 mg per kg. RTC.  In 2020, 2.610 million metric tons of RTC turkey was produced with consumption of 690,841 kg medically important antibiotics. This corresponds to a use rate of 265.7 mg per kg. of  RTC demonstrating the relatively higher use of antibiotics for this species.


The broiler industry has managed to eliminate antibiotic use by abandoning growth-stimulating antibiotic products in accordance with FDA Guidance documents.  By the middle of the 2010s it was recognized that antibiotic growth promoters were basically ineffective or provided marginal benefit in relation to cost. The industry has improved disease control through vaccination, especially against immunosuppressive infections and respiratory diseases and has enhanced ventilation and control of litter moisture.  Regrettably less progress has been made in application of alternate modalities to antibiotics in the turkey industry for both prevention and therapy. The poultry meat industry has clearly reduced antibiotic use relative to other segments producing animal protein, benefitting consumers, public health and the environment.

Copyright © 2022 Simon M. Shane