Antibiotics: Always a Relevant Topic

The use of antibiotics in large animal populations, including poultry, has been under the microscope for decades. The conversation on the topic has evolved, been toned down, and gradually become more focused in recent years. But, what are the latest trends in the use of antibiotics in poultry?

The Policies in Large Restaurant Chains

The year 2015 saw major restaurant chains constantly trying to one-up each other in a bid to stand out from the rest of the field. This led to a flurry of statements about their respective positions on the use of antibiotics. Several restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, Subway, A&W, and Chick-fil-A, announced plans to decrease or modify their use of certain antibiotics, or—more radical still—ban their use in livestock altogether. This hardly came as a surprise; in fact, all of the elements were already in place to support this sea change, namely conversations about the responsible use of antibiotics, antibiotic
resistance, and the various positions taken by government agencies.

Antibiotic-Free?

In the past few months, the demand for antibiotic-free products has been on the rise. But beware:  “Antibiotic-free” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. For example, the use of antibiotics to boost growth or prevent disease is prohibited in Europe and in Canada in antibiotic-free production. However, antibiotics are permitted in Europe in a curative capacity, i.e., to treat diseases. In the United States, contrary to popular belief, the use of ionophore anticoccidials is currently prohibited by the restaurant giants (see Table 1). The same holds true for Canada. However, vaccination for the prevention of coccidiosis is authorized in Canada, the United States, and Europe to control coccidiosis exposure in this type of production. In Canada, “raised without antibiotics” has a specific regulatory definition that precludes the use of antibiotics and anticoccidials. The Nobelo® program is targeted to meet consumer demands for reduced antibiotic use.

Poultry Table

The Position of Government Agencies

The past year has seen the release of the Canadian government’s first clear statements on the topic. After several years of talks, it would appear that the broad points are tending toward the following, without being official at the moment:

  1. Increased on-farm monitoring by veterinarians. Following the lead of Québec and Newfoundland, the rest of Canada is in the process of revising its position on obligations related to veterinary prescriptions and other veterinary authorization methods.
  2. Removal of claims about the use of antibiotics important to human medicine as growth factors. The pharmaceutical companies must amend their claims about these products before the deadline. The scientific evidence and methods of use need to be reviewed if the companies want to keep certain products.
  3. Better control over importing for personal use of veterinary drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients.
  4. Harmonization of legislation/approvals between Canada and other countries, including the United States.

The Nobelo® Alternative

Our Nobelo® program is an interesting alternative for producers. When used in conjunction with a coccidiosis prevention program, Nobelo® helps to reduce the use of antibiotics. The results achieved with Nobelo® are very satisfactory and are currently comparable to those seen with other approaches (see graphs 1 and 2). The same applies for intestinal health.

Graphs