Antibiotic resistance: The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming

On May 5, 2010, Pew hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill in collaboration with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Louise Slaughter, and Rep. Howard Berman. Panelists included an official from the World Health Organization, a veterinarian from Denmark’s Technical University, the proprietor of a Danish hog farm and a scientist from Denmark’s State Serum Institute.

Videos of the four presentations are available on the PEW website.

Antimicrobial resistance from use of antimicrobials in food animals: Jorgen Schlundt and Awa Aidara-Kane, Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses, World Health Organization

Effects of the termination of non-therapeutic antimicrobials on the Danish swine and broiler industry: Hanne-Dorthe Emborg, DVM, PhD ; National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark

How to have successful weaning without AGP: Kaj Munck, Bøgekærgård, Faxe, Denmark

Transfer of resistant bacteria from animals to humans: Niels Frimodt-Møller, MD, DMSc.; Dept. for Microbiological Surveillance and Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen

Denmark: results of stopping NTA (non-therapeutic antimicrobials)

Denmark chicken economics better after ATA banDenmark has proven conclusively that industrial production of pigs and chickens does NOT require feeding antibiotics to healthy animals. Denmark now has twelve years of positive experience resulting from the 1998 ban on NTA use (i.e., non-therapeutic antimicrobials). At their own expense, researchers from the Danish National Food Institute testified to the US Congress in 2009 on the success of Denmark’s ban on NTA.

The Danes were concerned that Congress did not understand the significance of their results. So Prof. Frank M. Aarestrup, Danish Technical University, wrote a letter to Pelosi enclosing some of the slides from their testimony. Click the thumbnail at left for one of the enclosed slides, demonstrating that the economics of chicken (broiler) production IMPROVED after the ban.

The letter and slide presentation are unambiguous. Here is the first Conclusions slide:

• Major increase in Danish food animal production

• Total antimicrobial consumption reduced from 100 to 49 mg/kg (51%) from 1992 to 2008

• Major reductions in resistance among animal pathogens, indicator bacteria and zoonotic bacteria

• Probably easier with larger reductions in other countries where the initial usage is higher –eg would equal 80% reduction in USA


If that last point is not clear, Dr. Aarestrup is simply reminding the Congress that the US consumption of NTA is so HUGE that the result of a US ban would be much more dramatic than the Danish experience. Click the thumbnail at left for the usage profile:

If you are searching for studies on this topic, note that some researchers use the terms “antibiotic growth promoters (AGP)” to describe the suspended practice.