July 07, 2018

Higher Food Safety to Enhance Consumer Confidence at WCAP

Higher Food Safety to Enhance Consumer Confidence

By: Anne Zinn

The second session of WCAP was entitled “Higher Food Safety to Enhance Consumer Confidence” and focused primarily on the use of antibiotics and the ever-growing concern over antibiotic resistance in animals and humans. Veterinarian Herman W. Barkema began the session with an overview of antimicrobial resistance and why all parties (farmers, doctors, veterinarians, the general population) have cause to be concerned. Dr. Barkma and his research team hypothesized that a decrease in the use of antibiotics could lead to a decrease in resistance to antibiotics; a meta analysis of papers published around the world proved that yes, a restriction in antibiotic use led to less resistance to antibiotics, but this was primarily in developed countries. Dr. Barkema cautioned that this may not be true of underdeveloped countries because of the affect this could have of the food supply. Regardless, it is crucial for human and animal scientists to work together to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance. 
Following Dr. Barkema, Amy Pruden, an Environmental Scientist at Virginia Tech, emphasized the importance of collaboration and critical control points for preventing the spread of antibiotic resistance as it relates to cattle manure and fresh produce. Dr. Pruden described a “farm to fork” study completed in partnership with the USDA that focused on the spread of antibiotics from the use of antibiotics on the farm for beef and dairy cattle through the human consumption of lettuce and radishes. Taking this discussion one step further was Dr. Katherine Knowlton, Ph.D. Professor at Virginia Tech, who discussed public attitudes on the therapeutic use of antibiotics in the dairy industry. Dr. Knowlton outlined a mixed methods study that surveyed the general population seeking to answer the question “to treat or not to treat” and to better understand the view of general consumers as it relates to the use of antibiotics. The majority of responses were in favor of treatment, but when presented with more information regarding environmental and health impacts, support for antibiotic treatment wavered. Most notably, all respondents agreed that therapeutic use of antibiotic was acceptable, but rejected all other sub-therapeutic antibiotic use. The results of this study, in collaboration with Dr. Pruden’s results, may aid in the development of policies and procedures regarding use of antibiotics on dairy farms. This practical application can be seen in the case example provided by Abele Kuipers, Director of the Expertise Center for Farm Management & Knowledge Transfer, who outlined the recent management and related decrease in antibiotic use in the Netherlands. 
To conclude the session, Uwe Roesler, Managing Director of the Institute for Animal Hygiene and Environmental Health at the Free Berlin University in Germany, presented on the challenge of antimicrobial resistance on the animal-human-environment interface, outlining the various ways bacteria can be introduced into an environmental and how difficult it can be to irradiate. The overall takeaway message from the afternoon is the overarching concern of antimicrobial resistance across all disciplines and how to solve this problem. There have been major steps towards understanding the issues facing the livestock community and specific studies have provided promising information to move towards a solution. As Dr. Barkema stressed, this issue is going to take full collaboration across all parties.

Abstracts for the above-mentioned presentations can be found here.