In the United States, close to 80% of all antibiotics used are given to animals, usually for growth promotion. At the same time, the U.S. and the rest of the world are facing a growing crisis of antibiotic resistance, where the drugs used to treat common infections are no longer working as well as they once did.
Some estimates suggest that without intervention, the use of antibiotics in animals could increase 53% around the world by 2030. Now, a new report published in the journal Science offers three recommendations for how to substantially cut back on the use of antibiotics in food production.
” We are in pretty bad shape,” says study senior author Ramanan Laxminarayan, the director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. “The saving grace is there are still many antibiotics that work, but that is declining.” This means that policy leaders and food companies need to act quickly, he says.
In the report, Laxminarayan and authors from several other global health, food and policy groups argue that three interventions could help. One is introducing regulations that set caps on the use of antibiotics in farm animals. This, they estimate, could lead to a 64% drop in animal consumption of antibiotics.