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Global restriction of using antibiotic growth promoters and alternative strategies in poultry production

Posted on 24. April, 2018.

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The use of antibiotics in animal and poultry feed has been a global practice since the middle of the last century. Antibiotics are used both at therapeutic and subtherapeutic levels to promote growth and feed efficiency. However, judicial use of antibiotics in food animals for growth promotion and disease prevention has been controversial for a long time due to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in animals and humans, resulting in treatment failure when needed.

This problem has also been gradually increasing due to the misuse of antibiotics in animal and poultry feed. Evidence shows that antibiotic resistant genes can be transmitted from animal microbiota to human microbiota. As a result, every year there is huge economic loss due to increased medical costs of less effective antibiotics for human health. Very recently, a report from the European Union (EU) indicated that about 25,000 patients die each year from infections by drug resistant bacteria, which is equivalent to €1.5 billion in hospital costs. This report indicates the seriousness of the problem across the globe. Moreover, about 90% of antibiotics given to livestock are excreted into the environment and may be a source of pollution. It is documented that antibiotic resistant bacteria can transmit directly, and indirectly through food chains, air, water, and soil. In addition, some antibiotic drugs have carcinogenic and genotoxic effects on human health. As a consequence of concern for public health safety, several countries have banned or restricted the use of human health related antibiotics in feed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that the use of antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) that are also used in human medicine be terminated or rapidly phased out by legislation, until risk assessments are carried out. The EU imposed a complete ban of all AGPs in animal feed in January 2006. But, a few groups of people heavily criticised the total ban of AGPs in farm animals and argued that such a ban follows ‘precautionary principles’ rather than scientific facts.

However, the movement towards restricted use of AGPs in farm animals appears to be an inevitable start towards a future global ban. Currently, a number of possible alternatives to AGPs are used. Some of the alternatives include significant changes in husbandry practices, and the strategic use of enteric microflora modifiers, including acidifiers, probiotics, enzymes, algae and herbal products, microflora enhancers, and immuno-modulators. However, every alternative has some limitations and no one individually acts as an AGP alternative for sustainable growth and production of birds. As a result, the poultry industry is now facing a great challenge to maintain production performance of birds due to increased feed costs, and the need for alternative supplements to replace antibiotics used in feed. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to review restrictions on the use of AGPs in animal and poultry feed accrued over time globally, its impacts, and the efficacy of feeding available alternatives of AGPs on poultry production. 

Read the full article in Science Progress, Volume 101, Number 1, March 2018, pp. 52.


Authors: Hossan Md. Salima, Khan Shahidul Huqueb, ; Kazi M. Kamaruddinc and Md. Anwarul Haque Begd
aLivestock Economics Section, Department of Livestock Services, Krishi Khamar Sarak, Dhaka-1207, Bangladesh
bWorld Bank, Bangladesh
cProgramme Krishi Gobeshona Foundation, Bangladesh
dDepartment of Poultry Science, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Bangladesh

Keywords: AGPs, global trends, alternatives, poultry
Image: Chickens by Tranquilles Bed and Breakfast, Port Sorell, Tasmania.