Antibiotics

There’s been growing attention around the use of antibiotics in agriculture. Restaurants, processors and retailers are offering more choices to British Columbians regarding their meals. Here are some answers for commonly asked questions.

Why are antibiotics being used?

For the same reason humans use antibiotics. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. In poultry, antibiotics are used for the treatment and prevention of disease. They play an important role in ensuring the health and welfare of poultry, as well as ensuring a safe product for consumers.

Am I eating antibiotics when eating chicken?

No. The use of antibiotics in animals is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). If antibiotics are used, farmers must comply with a withdrawal period, meaning farmers wait until the antibiotics have left the chicken before processing the birds. Testing has revealed no significant residue levels in over a decade.

How are antibiotics used?

Antibiotics are delivered via chicken feed. Careful records are kept of all antibiotics usage and farmers are required to report all antibiotic usage on a "flock report" before processing. Flock reports are reviewed by Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarians to to verify antibiotics were used appropriately and withdrawal periods have been adhered to. Any product failing this investigation is not allowed on the market.

Are antibiotics used in poultry important to human medicine?

Not all antibiotics are created equal. They are categorized according to their importance to human medicine. The majority of antibiotics used in poultry production are not used in human medicine. In fact, nearly 60% of all the antibiotics used in chicken production are not used in human medicine, and in May 2014 the industry banned the preventive use of Category I antibiotics (Category I antibiotics are defined as those of critical importance to humans).

What is antibiotic resistance?

Resistance is when bacteria stop responding, or don't respond as well to antibiotics. It's a naturally occurring phenomenon caused by any antibiotic use, in humans or in animals. Antibiotic resistance means that a greater number of illnesses are becoming hard to treat. The responsibility of resistance issues is shared with both human and animal medicine.

What are we doing to use less?

Chicken farmers are implementing a strategy to ensure that antibiotics are used responsibly to protect animal health. The entire industry is working hard to reduce use, research alternatives and educate both farmers and consumers.

Want to learn more? Visit chickenfarmers.ca to see how Canada’s chicken farmers are addressing antibiotic use.