June 2, 2015

Representatives from food and health industries, including pharmaceutical companies, retailers, restaurants, farmers, and human and animal health stakeholders will gather Tuesday for a forum at the White House to discuss ways to address the over usage of antibiotics in human and animals which has led to the rise of antimicrobial resistance.

The meeting underscores a growing global public health crisis with serious implications for the public and private sectors, both economically and health wise.

The problem emerged as more microorganisms, due to the use of same or similar antibiotics in people and in food producing animal, acquired intrinsic characteristics for mutation thus becoming a reservoir of resistant pathogens susceptible to antibiotics infections.

For example, recent outbreaks between 2011 – 2013 of multi-drug resistant Salmonella were traced to ground beef and poultry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug-resistance bacteria cause 2 million illnesses and about 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

During last month’s annual World Health Assembly meeting held in Geneva, the World Health Organization and its members designed a global action plan comprising of five objectives, urging governments worldwide to adapt it “to their national priorities and specific contexts and mobilize additional resources for its implementation” in order to help tackle antimicrobial resistance by 2017.

The plan’s five objectives set out to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance; strengthen surveillance and research; reduce the incidence of infection; optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines; and to ensure sustainable investment in countering antimicrobial resistance.

“Through adoption of the global plan, governments all committed to have in place, by May 2017, a national action plan on antimicrobial resistance that is aligned with the global action plan. It needs to cover the use of antimicrobial medicines in animal health and agriculture, as well as for human health,” the WHO said in a statement.

WHO said it will work with countries to support the development and implementation of their national plans, and will report progress to the Health Assembly in 2017.

Coinciding with the forum at the White House, President Obama will sign an executive order calling on the government’s cafeterias’ to prioritize meat that has been raised by responsible antibiotics practices.

The FDA will also announce new updates to regulations governing the role of veterinarians in prescribing medicines for food producing animals to ensure that the use of antibiotics on farms is brought under veterinarians’s supervision.

Part of the problem has been that there has been little or no oversight as to how farmers and animal processing companies use antibiotics which been used to make animal grow bigger rather than to treat infection.

Some farmers like Foster Farms has already began implementing veterinarian oversight of antibiotic use on their farm animals, in addition to emphasizing preventative flock health programs such as proper nutrition, and advanced husbandry practices to protect and preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, while ensuring the welfare of their chicken flocks.

Some of the other companies and health agencies that have signed on to the pledge includes Tyson Foods, McDonald’s, Smithfield, Walmart, American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, Ascension Health, Merck Animal Health, Hospital Corporation of America, and BioMerieux.

Over 150 health and animal related companies will participate in the event.

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