Imagine yourself with an infection. You are sitting in your doctor’s office and she tells you that you are out of options because you have become resistant to the medicines used to treat it.
In order to avoid situations like the one above, efforts are being made worldwide to curb the overuse of antibiotics prescribed by doctors, as well as those in the foods we eat.
Will reducing antibiotics in animals for food production lead to a healthier food supply? Judicious use is considered to be a core principle when it comes to animal health. How we treat the animals we eat is inherent to the quality of the food supply and has a direct impact on human health. While reducing antibiotics in animals can benefit both animal and human health, the long term impressions on the food supply have yet to be determined.
What about the economic impact? Less antibiotics could lead to increased prices for meats and milk. The global economy could be affected in a way that trickles down to the farmers and consumers. Some countries, such as Denmark, have already reduced their reliance on antibiotics and have taken the economic effects in stride. Perhaps this can serve as a blueprint for others to follow.
Are there alternatives to antibiotics used in animal health? Science is leading the way, with probiotics standing out as a viable option. Bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) are also emerging as possible candidates to replace the antibiotics used in veterinary science. It remains to be seen whether or not these alternatives can be as effective as their medicinal counterparts, produced in mass quantities, and be accepted by farmers and consumers alike.
One year after the White House unveiled its first ever national plan to combat antibiotic resistance, and as a stream of restaurant chains commit to sourcing antibiotic-free food, The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science is ready to take stock. It is bringing together a diverse group of experts in public health, animal health, agriculture, and food safety to explore what we may and may not expect to be consequences of reducing the antibiotics used in the food system.
It will take tremendous and continuous work on the part of industry, science, consumers, and regulators to develop a sustainable, competitive, and healthy food system. As a country, the United States has the expertise and leadership capacity to develop a state-of-the-art approach. What is needed is the collective commitment to act.
When it comes to your health, would you want your antibiotics to work?
Join the Sackler Institute at The New York Academy of Sciences on June 3rd and take part in the discussion of what a reduction in antibiotics means for industry, public health, and consumers. Click here to register.