U.S – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently released data revealing a 4% rise in the sales of medically important antibiotics used in food-producing animals in the past year.

The latest summary report from the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine discloses that 6.2 million kilograms of these antibiotics were sold in 2022, up from 5.9 million kg in 2021.

Medically important antibiotics, also used in human medicine, constituted 56% of all antibiotics sold for food-producing animals.

While the overall trend since 2015 has shown a 36% reduction in sales, a closer examination indicates that this decline occurred only in 2016 and 2017, aligning with the implementation of FDA rules prohibiting the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion.

Since 2017, antibiotic sales for livestock and poultry have steadily increased, causing concern among advocates for better antibiotic stewardship in food-animal production.

The FDA’s 2018 5-year stewardship plan has not yielded the intended decrease in sales, with each subsequent year witnessing an upswing.

Swine accounted for the highest percentage of medically important antibiotic sales (43%), followed by cattle (41%), turkey (12%), chicken (2%), and other food animals (2%). Notably, sales for cattle increased by 4.4%, swine by 5%, and turkey by 10% in 2022.

The 2022 FDA report introduces biomass-adjusted sales data for the first time, offering insights into the intensity of antibiotic use by accounting for changes in animal population sizes.

Almost all antibiotic classes, except for fluoroquinolones, saw double-digit increases in biomass-adjusted sales from 2021 to 2022.

Advocates argue that these trends indicate a failure in antibiotic stewardship efforts, asserting that antibiotics are being used less wisely and with potential harm to public health.

While the FDA emphasizes the need to consider additional information sources such as actual use data, animal demographics, and antimicrobial resistance, critics point to the increase in biomass-adjusted sales as evidence of escalating antibiotic use in food-animal production.

In contrast to the US, other countries have successfully reduced the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock.

The United Kingdom, for instance, reported a 9% decrease in antibiotic sales for food-producing animals from 2021 to 2022 and a substantial 59% reduction since 2014. This discrepancy underscores the need for effective antibiotic stewardship and sets the US apart as an outlier in antibiotic use trends.

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