September 2, 2003
Antibiotics in Pig Feed May Put Human Health on Risk
Consumers today face a fresh food scare amidst claims that banned growth drugs are being pumped into pig meat.
West-based organisation the Soil Association (SA) alleges that livestock destined for the dinner table is routinely fed controversial antibiotics in a bid to boost yields.
But, on August 31st, West animal experts hit out at the claims as misinformed scaremongering.
Bob Moore, partner in the Crewkerne-based Kingfisher Veterinary Practice, said: "In my judgement the Soil Association has raised concerns on a very poor basis. I would not support their worries." The SA says strict regulations on the use of antibiotic Tylosin are being flouted by the farming industry in a loop-hole that risks human health. Sales of the substances have rocketed in recent years, despite being outlawed as a development aid by the EU in 1999.
The SA claims producers in the UK dodge the ban by getting the drugs on prescription from vets. The organisation claims up to 80 per cent of the farmers still regularly feed the drugs to their pigs.
And the organisation says the continued use of the antibiotic could have disastrous effects on human health, as infectious diseases build up a resistance to drugs.
Researchers found evidence that antibiotics used in pig feed can cause cross resistance of diseases caused by bacteria. Cross resistance has been linked to drugs used to treat cases of campylobacter, diarrhoea and vomiting in children. In extreme cases, the sickness, which is thought to hit around 420,000 people in the UK each year, can kill if it goes untreated.
But, Mr Moore, whose veterinary practice covers Chard, Martock and Taunton, said the SA warning was misguided. "There are no antibiotics licensed for use as growth promoters, and the use of them as such is frowned upon. Tylosin is used in clinical situations to treat animals.
That's an entirely different state of affairs.
"Its use is controlled by very stringent regulations to prevent it reaching the human food chain."