The White House on Tuesday held a forum with human and animal health stakeholders – representing more than 150 food companies, retailers and others – to discuss antibiotic stewardship and the government's five-year plan to slow emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections.
At the forum, President Barack Obama signed a memorandum directing federal departments and agencies to create a preference for meat and poultry produced according to responsible antibiotic-use; the Presidential Food Service announced it would serve only meats and poultry that have not been treated with hormones or antibiotics.
The announcement comes as the U.S. FDA also on Tuesday finalized its judicious use of animal antibiotics veterinary feed directive, which brings the feed-use of medically important antibiotics under the oversight of licensed veterinarians.
The forum builds on a number of steps the government has taken to ensure responsible antibiotics use, including a September, 2014, executive order that prioritizes federal efforts to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Other efforts include a National Strategy on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, and a report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that focused on recommendations to address antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
In March 2015, the Administration released the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, an outline of duties for several federal departments that can enhance diagnosis and treatment, as well as limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
At the forum, several groups weighed in on the federal plans and efforts they would make to improve antibiotic use and the rise of antibiotic resistant infections.
While health and pharmaceutical groups, non-profits, foundations and other discussed plans, the ag sector and food retailers participated, too, outlining actions that include phasing out medically important antibiotics for animal growth promotion, or funding research for alternatives and instituting a company-wide policy to eliminate all medically-important antibiotics by a target date.
Organizations highlighted included McDonald's, Foster Farms, Tyson Foods and Smithfield. Also listed was Walmart, which just last week announced its antibiotic outlines for suppliers.
Animal pharmaceutical companies also shared in the forum, making efforts to work with feed mills and veterinarians to align their antibiotics products with FDA policies.
According to the White House, these companies – which listed Zoetis, Elanco and Merck Animal Health – are investing in vaccines, best management practices, on-farm hygiene, and nutrition that will benefit animal health while decreasing antibiotic use.
Questions on new White House policy
The American Feed Industry Association, following the White House announcement, said its meat purchase policy was "premature given FDA's judicious-use antibiotic policy doesn't go into full effect until December 2016, when animal drug sponsors remove production claims from approved animal drugs."
"The memorandum announced yesterday sends the wrong message to both our trading partners and consumers," said Richard Sellers, AFIA senior vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs.
"It also focuses in on hormone-free products--which have not previously been part of the antibiotic discussion--and appears to imply hormone-free products are safer and should be preferred by consumers because the federal government, including our president, use them. However, FDA has made no announcements regarding any safety concerns about hormones approved for use in animals," Sellers said.