A new report from the Institute of Food Technologists (ITF) concludes that eliminating antimicrobials from use in food-animal production may have little positive impact on resistant bacteria of concern to human health.

IFT is a non-profit, international scientific society of food science and technology professionals. It organized an expert panel to review antimicrobial resistance as it relates to the food industry. The panel examined the prospect of antimicrobial use in food-animal production, manufacturing and elsewhere in creating foodborne pathogens that are resistant to antimicrobials. The point was to determine whether there is a residual affect in controlling those pathogens in production agriculture, food processing or human medicine. The panel summarized its findings in a report released on June 26.

The panel’s conclusion is supported by the experience observed internationally when sub-therapeutic antimicrobials have been withdrawn from food animal production. The result is increased animal diseases and a subsequent increase in therapeutic antimicrobial use, the panel noted. 

The European Union's elimination of certain antibiotics has not shown to reduce the prevalence of some antibiotic-resistant strains affecting human medicine. Quite the opposite, resistance increased among some pathogens according to the report.

"Prior human exposure to antibiotics is the greatest factor for acquiring an infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria," said Michael Doyle, chairman of IFT's panel, microbiologist and food safety expert.

The report cited concerns that new antibiotics for use in livestock are not being produced at a rate fast enough to keep pace with the development of resistant bacteria. The panel also concluded that antibiotic treatments used in food-animal production can benefit public health by reducing pathogens that cause human illness from within the animals.

The report can be found online at: Antimicrobial Resistance: Implications for the Food System

Institute of Food Technologists