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Malaysian Consumer Group Calls for Ban on Antibiotics in Animal Feed

20 January 2014

MALAYA - A consumer group in Malaysia has called on the authorities to ban antibiotic use in animal feeds following the EU ban on antibiotics in animal feed.

The Consumers Association of Penang wants the Malaysian ministries of health and agriculture to create a national system to monitor antibiotic use in food animals.

This includes actions to improve and refine the collection of data on antibiotic use in the country.

The consumer group says that the quantities and classes of antibiotics used in food animals according to animal species need to be documented, which the group says is essential for risk analysis, interpreting resistance surveillance data and assessing the impact of interventions to promote prudent use.

The group believes that resistance should be monitored and changes in antibiotic resistance through on going surveillance at local, state and national levels must be tracke.

“This will identify emerging health problems so that timely corrective action to protect human health is taken,” the Consumers Association of Penang says.

“The containment of antibiotic resistance must be made a national priority. There is a need to create a national intersectoral body or task force comprising healthcare professionals, veterinarians, academics, agricultural scientists, consumers, the media, to raise awareness about antimicrobial resistance (AMR), prioritise research, collect data, recommend policy measures to contain AMR eg formulating principles for a new Animal Health Law.”

The group wants guidelines for veterinarians drawn up so that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animals can be reduced.

And it says there should be education and training for livestock farmers on responsible use of antibiotics.

The group has called on the government bodies to encourage good farming practices and best practices in disease control including appropriate housing design for animals, good disinfection procedures, isolation of sick animals, use of vaccines and disease eradication programmes.

It adds that imported meat products must be checked for antibiotic resistant contamination and the rule strictly enforced.

Locally produced and imported foods that are responsible for outbreaks of Salmonella infections and other food borne contamination must be identifies and the spread of Salmonella among animals on farms has to be monitored to prevent their spread.

The group also wants to see education for consumers and food workers about safe food handling practices and how to avoid Salmonella infections.

“Several studies on our meats like chicken (both imported and local), beef, mutton and frozen burgers have found an alarmingly high incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in them,” the Consumers Association of Penang said.

“Eating foods contaminated with such bacteria can cause life-threatening complications as the treatment of such cases may be difficult.

“The indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animal feeds has caused the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farm animals. The spread of such bacteria in our meats is alarming and poses a serious health threat to consumers.”

In a study carried out by the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) in 2012, half of the domestic chickens were resistant to ampicillin, sulphonamide and tetracycline.

The situation was worse with imported chicken: 87 per cent ampicillin-resistant, 75 per cent nalidixis acid-resistant, and 50 per cent streptomycin- and sulphonamide-resistant.

The study also found 13.5 per cent Tetracycline-resistant Salmonella; 5.4 per cent Polymixin B and Erythromycin-resistant Salmonella and 2.7 per cent Chloramphenicol, Penicillin G and Trimethoprim-resistant Salmonella in local chicken.

Food samples such as beef, mutton and chicken had antibiotic-resistant Salmonella. About 6.28 per cent of the resistant Salmonella was isolated from imported products (44.2 per cent beef and 18.6 per cent chicken).

In another study of live chickens sold at wet markets in Selangor, of the 90 chickens examined 68 (75.6 per cent) were positive for Campylobacter. The most frequently observed resistance was to cephalothin (95.5 per cent) followed by tetracycline (80.8 per cent), erythromycin (51.4 per cent), enrofloxacon (42.4 per cent) and gentamicin (24.4 per cent). Multidrug resistance (resistant to three or more antibiotics) was detected in 35.3 per cent isolates (bacteria samples).

In 2005, the USFDA withdrew approval of fluoroquinolones used in poultry (currently used in Malaysia) as this class of antibiotics causes resistant Campylobacter in poultry which are transferred to humans and may cause fluoraquinolone resistant Campylobacter infections to develop in humans.

In addition, local researchers also found the presence of multidrug-resistant strains of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in frozen burger patties taken from supermarkets and other retail shops in the country.

Commonly found in raw foods, L. Monocytogenes can cause listeriosis. Common symptoms include gastrointestinal upset, headaches, fever and in severe cases, brain infection and or blood poisoning.

This study examined the susceptibility of L. Monocytogenes isolated from raw beef, chicken and vegetarian patties to 11 different antibiotics. 28 out of 41 bacteria samples were resistant to at least one and 19 were resistant to at least two antibiotics. Tetracycline, followed by erythromycin resistance, were the most common forms of resistance.

The group said that because of the link between antibiotic use in food-producing animals and the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, antibiotics should be used in food producing animals only under veterinary supervision.

“It is clear the high incidence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in our meats that there are problems with the Livestock Farm Practices Scheme (SALT) which is to ensure that farms practising Good Animal Husbandry Practices (GAHP) produce safe and wholesome food of good quality, in sustainable and environmentally friendly conditions” said the Consumers Association of Penang

“SALT certification is awarded to farms that meet criteria of GAHP, Animal Health Management, Bio-security, good infrastructure and prudent use of drugs. The certification scheme covers all types of livestock i.e. beef cattle, dairy cattle, broiler chicken, layer chicken, breeder chicken, deer, goat, sheep and pig.

“Yet more than half of the domestic chicken harvested from the SALT certified farm in the DVS study were resistant to three classes of antibiotics i.e. ampicillin, sulphonamide and tetracycline.

“The situation was worse with imported chicken.”

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

Top image via Shutterstock

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