Antibiotics Off The Menu

in Issue 32 by

The Belize Bureau of Standards commemorated “World Consumer Rights Day 2016” in Belize on March 14th at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel by hosting a seminar with the theme Antibiotics off the Menu. The World Health Organization has identified the over-use of antibiotics in animal feed as a world crisis.

The event focused on the risks of antibiotic use in the poultry, pig and cattle industry. “The widespread use of antibiotics is used to control, suppress or to kill micro-organisms,” stated Armando Cowo, manager of the Belize Poultry Association. Mr. Cowo urged the use of antibiotics to be limited and used only “when it is absolutely necessary.” He recommended that farmers use best practices by keeping barns and animal lots clean and decreasing the population density of animals. Antibiotics in animal feed also perform the function of growth enhancers for animals, growing animals faster and larger. John Bodden, Principal Public Health Inspector, noted, “It is the improper use of antibiotics that leads to resistance, classified as antimicrobial resistance, which threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.” Mr. Bodden further stressed, “If there are residues remaining in the food animal, there is potential for that organism to be transmitted to the human on consumption.” Mr. Bodden said his agency is committed to help minimize the spread of antimicrobial resistance. One of his presentation points advised, “Clean hands save lives”, noting that frequent hand washing is an important habit to employ to help prevent disease.

Dr. Natalie Gibson, Deputy Director of Food Safety at Belize Agriculture and Health Authority, noted that medications which were once used to treat infections are no longer useful. “Antimicrobial resistance to food-borne zoonotic bacteria, salmonella, and campylobacter in humans have been clearly linked to antibiotic use in food animals,” Dr. Gibson stated. She advised the following steps to combat antimicrobial resistance: “Commit to a comprehensive financial national plan with accountability and civil society engagement; enhance infection prevention and control; and foster innovations and research and development for new tools.”

Other speakers noted that some farmers are requesting antibiotic-free animal feed, citing enzymes can be effectively used rather than antibiotics. Ms. Genae Thompson Palacio, representing the Belize Pharmacist Association, said consumers tend to overuse antibiotics inappropriately when they are ill with viruses and organisms that do not require or respond to antibiotic use; this practice helps create antibiotic resistance to infections when antibiotics are needed. She recommended a national informational plan to regulate sales and use of antibiotics and more consumer education.