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Indiscriminate use of animal antibiotics

5 August, 2004

Audit reveals indiscriminate use of animal antibiotics

A Food Safety Authority audit has found that no effective controls exist to rein in the widespread and indiscriminate feeding of antibiotics in the pork and poultry industries, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today.

"The report's conclusions are a huge concern," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's Food Safety spokesperson.

"The audit shows a pattern of indiscriminate use, of some veterinarians acting at the behest of producers, prescribing amounts that are directed by producers rather than by veterinarians, and sloppy prescription practices.

"Not a single veterinary prescription of the 26 that were examined met the required standard, or said exactly how much antibiotic each animal should get. Some prescriptions were not signed by the vet, some were emailed, some did not mention the withholding period or even include the specific feed into which the medication was to be included.

"According to the audit, some veterinarians are dispensing prescriptions without even visiting a farm or examining animals, and some antibiotics are still being used illegally as growth promotants."

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority's Compliance and Investigation Group's audit had investigated the use of the two of the most common antibiotics prescribed for animals - tylosin and zinc bacitracin.

Alarmingly, another NZFSA audit found that the use of restricted human medicines was common in veterinary practices, with up to 80 different human medicines in use for animals.

"Most New Zealanders would be concerned that human medicines such as the widely used antibiotic augmentin are being administered to animals, often just because they are cheaper," said Ms Kedgley.

"There is little point in having strict controls on dispensing antibiotics to humans if we have effectively no controls on the prescribing of antibiotics to animals. Consumers can have no confidence in the system of dispensing antibiotics to animals.

"Given the lack of controls and compliance revealed by this audit, it seems bizarre that the New Zealand Food Safety Authority is 'pleased to see the level of management of the antibiotics that were the focus of this review'," she said.

Ms Kedgley added that it was odd that the review was completed fifteen months ago, in May 2003, and results only released yesterday.


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