India’s move to curb antibiotic use in livestock, poultry may hit imports from US

Huge amounts of antibiotics are known to be used in chicken farming in the US

Published: Saturday 24 January 2015


A recent draft order of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) has proposed to put curbs on the rampant use of antibiotics as a growth promoter in food-producing animals in India, such as chicken. The order covers imported products as well.

Indians are developing resistance to antibiotics—and are falling prey to a host of otherwise curable ailments. Some of this resistance might be due to large-scale unregulated use of antibiotics in the poultry and meat industry. A July 2014 study by CSE’s Pollution Monitoring Lab had established this linkage by detecting antibiotic residues in 40 per cent of the chicken samples that it tested.

Delhi non-profit Centre and Science has welcomed the draft order. Says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general, CSE: “India needs to implement a comprehensive set of regulations, including banning of antibiotic use as growth promoters in the poultry industry. Not doing this will put lives of people at risk. Keeping that in mind, the FSSAI’s draft order is the first big step in the right direction to regulate overuse and misuse of antibiotics. It will help in stemming antibiotic resistance.”

The FSSAI order, which has been placed on the Authority’s website on January 19, invites comments within a period of 60 days and shall come into effect from July 1, 2015. Recognising the issue of antibiotic overuse and misuse in food-producing animals, the order issues directions to ensure compliance with two advisories circulated last year by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.

The advisories were issued to directors and commissioners of animal husbandry departments of states and Union territories. They prohibit antibiotic use as growth promoters in feed and feed supplements. One of the advisories, in particular, also talks about ensuring veterinary supervision of overall antibiotic use; supply of a licensed antibiotic by a registered user; instituting a system of tracking antibiotic use; and the need for alternatives. CSE has time and again stressed on these actions as necessary interventions to stop antibiotic use in food animals.

Responding to the draft order, Amit Khurana, programme head of CSE’s Food Safety and Toxins team, says: “Another major concern is the unregulated entry of antibiotics into the food-producing industry, which we hope will be checked by this order.”

Khurana also points out that the order covers imported products as well – which means it could help restrict the likely import of chicken legs from the US to the Indian market. Huge amounts of antibiotics are known to be used in chicken farming in the US.

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