Making a case for ionophore use in this industry (Poultry Diagnostics)
Earlier this year, when McDonald’s USA announced it would require chicken suppliers to phase out antibiotics, with the exception of a class of antibiotics called ionophores — medications like monensin, salinomycin, lasalocid, to name a few — because they’re among the shrinking list of in-feed antibiotics not considered medically important to human medicine by the World Health Organization (WHO). The fast-food chain went on to say it recognizes that judicious use of drugs such as ionophores are an integral part of an overall animal health and welfare program. For the most part, food-safety advocates, veterinarians and poultry industry groups reacted favorably to McDonald’s announcement, calling it a sensible compromise — one that addressed consumers’ growing concerns about antibiotics while allowing the continued use of certain medications for maintaining good flock health and welfare. Poultry veterinarians and producers consider ionophores essential for maintaining the health and welfare of commercial flocks, while working to meet the ever-growing world demand for affordable poultry. The first thing poultry decision-makers need to know is that ionophores are not used in human medicine. Although they are classified as antibiotics, they are not even used therapeutically in chickens to treat bacterial infections. They are used as antiparasitics to manage coccidia, a family of protozoan parasites that cause coccidiosis — widely considered the costliest intestinal disease of poultry.
Coccidia are persistent parasites found worldwide on all types of poultry farms, whether they are small backyard hobby flocks or large commercial operations. Just one microscopic coccidial oocyst, or egg, can produce over 500,000 offspring in just 4 to 7 days. If not kept in check, coccidia cause extensive gut damage, animal suffering and, in severe cases, death that leads to huge economic losses for poultry farmers. Coccidiosis also predisposes chickens to other problems, such as clostridial bacterial infections, which can lead to another serious gut disease known as necrotic enteritis.
But if ionophores in poultry are used only to control parasites, why are they even considered antibiotics? Like many other antibiotics, ionophores are derived from naturally occurring bacteria. They are also active against many Gram-positive bacteria That puts ionophores in the antibiotic club, even though they work very differently compared to the antimicrobials that are used in human medicine. Ionophores can also lose their effectiveness against coccidia when used for prolonged periods — another trait associated with antibiotics. This got ionophores into the crosshairs of animal antibiotic ban zealots. But according to scientists who have closely studied this family of antibiotics, reduced sensitivity to ionophores used in food animals does not jeopardize the effectiveness of antibiotics used in human medicine because of different mode of action of ionophores, and the fact that ionophores are not used in human medicine. https://poultryhealthtoday.com/the-case-for-ionophores-how-theyre-different-from-other-antibiotics-and-why-it-matters/
Some of my personal thoughts on this subject:
As a poultry disease diagnostician, I have been witnessing the unprecedented increased incidence of poultry enteric diseases (i.e. coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis) and bacterial disease in general as result of the shift to Antibiotic-Free(ABF) Production. I have no problems with diversifying consumer choices, but forcing ABF production on everyone by a complete ban on antibiotic use in food animal production is a bad idea from an animal disease incidence and animal welfare standpoint. http://www.usaha.org/upload/Committee/TransDisPoultry/17-Broiler%20Industry%20Report_Johnson.pdf.
– I support the judicious use of antibiotics in commercial poultry production, and also support increased veterinary oversight of medically important antibiotics ( ionophores are not one of them as they are not used in humans). I do not support the complete ban of antibiotics and ionophores in food animal production for animal welfare and ethical considerations https://poultryhealthtoday.com/omitting-ionophores-raises-ethical-conflicts-for-veterinarians/
-Ionophores are one the very few remaining tools in controlling coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis. Coccidiosis costs the poultry industry 3 billion worldwide and 90 million in the US. http://www.thepoultrysite.com/poultrynews/28036/high-cost-of-coccidiosis-in-broilers/
-Ionophores are an important tool in doubling food production to meet the challenge of feeding the world by 2050. http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/wsfs/docs/expert_paper/How_to_Feed_the_World_in_2050.pdf
-Increased incidence of enteric disease due to ionophore bans may also increase the risk of fecal contamination of chicken at slaughter/processing by human food pathogens such as Salmonella which is a normal inhabitant of the chicken gut. https://poultryhealthtoday.com/salmonella-coccidiosis-connection/
– Influential food retailers like McDonald’s have recognized the value of ionophores. The European Union still allow the use of ionophores in food animal production.
-Ionophores have been in the market for 40 yrs, and have passed government( FDA, EPA, USDA) safety tests. A quick literature search will yield scientific peer-reviewed publications that demonstrate that residues of commonly used ionophores degrade in the environment in a matter of days. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749113003643#bib40
Use of Ionophores in Poultry Production
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P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925