WHO's new Guidelines on the Use of Antibiotics in Food-Producing Animals

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The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging farmers and the food industry to help promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals by reducing the use of antibiotics.

The ‘WHO Guidelines on Use of Medically Important Antimicrobials in Food-producing Animals’ aim to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics that are important for human medicine by reducing their unnecessary use in animals. WHO estimates that in some countries, approximately 80% of total consumption of medically important antibiotics is in the animal sector, largely for growth promotion in healthy animals.

The document consists of four broad recommendations and two best practice statements. They are:

  • An overall reduction in use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals
  • Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for growth promotion
  • Complete restriction of use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals for prevention of infectious diseases that have not yet been clinically diagnosed
  • Antimicrobials classified as critically important for human medicine should not be used for control of the dissemination of a clinically diagnosed infectious disease identified within a group of food-producing animals.
  • Any new class of antimicrobials or new antimicrobial combination developed for use in humans will be considered critically important for human medicine unless categorised otherwise by WHO
  • Medically important antimicrobials that are not currently used in food production should not be used in the future in food production including in food-producing animals or plants