Traditionally, pork producers have used antibiotics for three purposes: treatment of illnesses, control or prevention of diseases, and to improve nutritional efficiency. However, due to the concern about antibiotic-resistant bacteria , the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a new ruling, FDA Guidance #213 to ensure the continued responsible use of these products in food animals. The rule will be implemented on October 1, 2015 with a full implementation date of December 31, 2016.
Guidance #213 contains several important changes for pork producers. First, a veterinarian must write a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) or prescription for all antibiotics used in feed. Like a human prescription, the VFD will specify the antibiotic used, the dosage approved, animals to be treated, and how long the treatment is approved for. However, the FDA is working to make sure that the rules won’t place an undue burden on producers, veterinarians, and feed suppliers.
Secondly, the veterinarian writing the VFD must have a valid Veterinary-Client-Patient relationship with the producer, something that is the backbone of the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance program. By having a strong working relationship between the veterinarian and producer, better treatment decisions can be made.
Third, antibiotics can no longer be used to improve nutritional efficiency. Once Guidance #213 is fully implemented in December 2016, it will be illegal to use medically important antibiotics for production purposes. Again, the VFD will only be written for the prevention, control, or treatment of specifically identified diseases.
Record keeping will increase under the new rules. The veterinarian writing the VFD, the feed mill or distributor receiving the VFD, and the producer receiving the medicated feed must all keep a copy of the VFD on file for two years.
Guidance #213 and the new VFD rules will help ensure that medically important antibiotics will still be efficacious in human use, and that pork producers and veterinarians are working together to provide the very best medical care for their animals as possible.
Producers need to set down with their veterinarians sooner than later in order to develop an antibiotic strategy for their individual operations. A strong veterinary-client-patient relationship is critical in moving forward successfully with the new antibiotic rules. Dr. Russ Daly, SDSU Extension Veterinarian, has further information in his VFD Rule Finalized: Insights on changes in feed-grade antibiotic use article. Also more information on the topic can be accessed through the FDA's Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) and FDA Guidance #120 resources.