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CSE Seeks Ban On Use Of Antibiotics In Poultry Industry

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New Delhi-based advocacy think-tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has sought a ban on the use of antibiotics as feed additives for faster growth in poultry industry. The recommendation is on the basis of a CSE lab study that found residues of antibiotics in 40 per cent of the samples of chicken that were tested.

The CSE findings have come at a time when anti-biotic resistance is becoming a major health hazard among patient population within the country. “Public health experts have long suspected that such rampant use of antibiotics in animals could be a reason for increasing antibiotic resistance in India. But the government has no data on the use of antibiotics in the country, let alone on the prevalence of antibiotic resistance. Our study proves the rampant use and also shows that this can be strongly linked to growing antibiotic resistance in humans in India”, Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general and head of the lab, said.

The CSE lab tested 70 samples of chicken in Delhi and NCR: 36 samples were picked from Delhi, 12 from Noida, eight from Gurgaon and seven each from Faridabad and Ghaziabad. Three tissues — muscle, liver and kidney — were tested for the presence of six antibiotics widely used in poultry: oxytetracycline, chlortetracycline and doxycycline (class tetracyclines); enrofloxacin and ciprofloxacin (class fluoroquinolones) and neomycin, an aminoglycoside. This is the biggest study done in India to test residues of antibiotics in chicken.

Residues of five of the six antibiotics were found in all the three tissues of the chicken samples. They were in the range of 3.37-131.75 ?g/kg. Of the 40 per cent samples found tainted with antibiotic residues, 22.9 per cent contained residues of only one antibiotic while the remaining 17.1 per cent samples had residues of more than one antibiotic. In one sample purchased from Gurgaon, a cocktail of three antibiotics — oxytetracycline, doxycycline and enrofloxacin — was found. CSE argues that this indicates rampant use of multiple antibiotics in the poultry industry.

CSE researchers point out that antibiotics are frequently pumped into chicken during its life cycle of 35-42 days: they are occasionally given as a drug to treat infections, regularly mixed with feed to promote growth and routinely administered to all birds for several days to prevent infections, even when there are no signs of it. “Our study is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more antibiotics that are rampantly used that the lab has not tested,” says Bhushan.

With antibiotics losing their effectiveness, the world would need newer antibiotics. Unfortunately, no new class of antibiotics has hit the market since the late 1980s. In the US, which is the largest user of antibiotics for animal food production, more than two million people suffer from antibiotic resistance-related illnesses every year; 23,000 of them succumb to the diseases. Annual healthcare cost due to antibiotic resistance is estimated to be as high as $20 billion. No such estimates are available for India, but cases of high antibiotic resistance are emerging from across the country.

CSE wanted the government to regulate the poultry feed industry and ensure that unlicensed and unlabeled antibiotics are not sold in the market. “The government should promote development of alternatives and good farm management practices. It should set standards for antibiotics in chicken products. It should set up systems for monitoring and surveillance of antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in humans and animals”, a CSE statement said.