In our last post entitled Antibiotic Sales Data Released by FDA, I failed to answer a simple question: How many antibiotics are actually used in livestock? The amount of antibiotics sold is easy to find if you read the FDA report and add up the columns, but who wants to read government reports? The short answer, to my original question how many antimicrobials are used, cannot be easily answered. FDA does provide a report on how much was sold, but we cannot tell how much was used and exactly for what it was used. We don’t know how much is still sitting on a shelf. Therefore, looking at year to year variations can be risky.
FDA told us that about 13 million kg of antimicrobials were sold; however, since the concern is really about antimicrobials which might also be used in humans, we must deduct the 4.1 mil kg which were ionophores (ionophores are not used in humans). Therefore, the total amount of “concern” is 9.4 million kg.
Is that a lot? Is that too much? It is only too much if it is “excessive,” which can only be defined as those sales which are not needed. Farmers and veterinarians agree that antimicrobial abuse and excessive use is wrong and not prudent, but if animals need these medicines to provide a healthy food supply it is not too much.