At a time when consumers have never been more inquisitive and discriminating about the origins of their food, the feed animal industry has faced a great deal of scrutiny regarding its use of antibiotics and antimicrobials, and the prospect of their trickle-down effects on human health. "Alternatives to Antibiotics in Food Production Animals," a free Report from SupplySide Animal Nutrition Insights explores natural alternative feed ingredients, which deliver comparable results without the potential side effects.
Antibiotics were originally administered to food production animals to help keep them healthy. However, as the industry grew and adapted to meet the demands of feeding more people, traditional livestock farming could no longer keep pace. Thus, the current system of addressing animal health with feed-based antibiotics began in the late 1940s, and didn't draw widespread concern until the late 1960s, when scientists began raising questions about the safety and implications.
From a regulatory standpoint, the U.S. stance on the issue contrasts starkly with that of its global neighbors. Unlike the comprehensive ban on the use of antibiotics in food production animals in Europe, in late 2013, FDA eschewed formal regulations in lieu of self-governed guidance, citing a willingness to wait for concrete scientific proof linking feed animal antibiotic practices with effects on human health. The directive encouraged the voluntary elimination of antimicrobials and antibiotics used for growth purposes, and suggested a reduction in the use of antibiotics for treatment or therapeutic use in livestock. The plan also established a three-year timeframe to phase out antibiotics used for growth promotion, as well as calling for therapeutic and targeted-use antibiotics to be managed by greater veterinary oversight. Many critics felt the guidance was woefully inadequate.
Regardless, a variety of significant alternatives to antibiotics are appearing in feed formulations, ranging from essential and functional oil-based formulas to those including beta-glucans and pre- and probiotics.