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Feeding antibiotics to healthy animals must stop


Feeding antibiotics to healthy animals must stop

Green MP Sue Kedgley is calling for a ban on the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy animals, and immediate testing of food produce from animals that have been fed antibiotics.

The food tests - including on chicken, pork and beef - would determine whether the meat is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. "Consumers have the right to know whether the food they eat contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria," Ms Kedgley said.

It should also be illegal to feed antibiotics to animals which are also used to treat humans, as this increased the risk of passing untreatable bacteria from animals to humans, Ms Kedgley said.

She is also calling for urgent research to determine the extent of antibiotic resistance in humans and animals New Zealand.

Ms Kedgley was commenting on concerns raised by leading microbiologists at a seminar she hosted in Wellington yesterday. They are seriously concerned the excessive feeding of antibiotics to animals is creating reservoirs of antibiotic-resistance genes that could pass to humans. This raises the prospect of untreatable diseases, including the hospital superbug MRSA, developing in humans.

Otago University microbiologists Greg Cook at the seminar outlined new research results, from a study he is conducting with the poultry industry, showing high levels of vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE) in New Zealand chickens, following the feeding of the antibiotic growth promotant avoparcin in the late 1990s. Dr Cook said the danger was that this resistance could pass to humans, causing an untreatable MRSA, which in turn could pass its antibiotic-resistance onto other MRSAs - causing a major public health crisis.

"We are facing one of the most serious public health threats of the 21st century," Ms Kedgley said. "The Government must take leadership on the issue."

About 60% of antibiotics used in New Zealand were fed to animals, she said. "Now that we have concrete evidence we have reservoirs of antibiotic resistant bacteria in New Zealand poultry flocks that can spread to humans, we have to take action now - rather than waiting till we have untreatable MRSAs."

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