Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the New Delhi-based research and advocacy think-tank, has released a statement in response to some recent claims perpetuated by the Indian poultry industry.Recently, CSE's Pollution Monitoring Lab (PML) conducted a study on antibiotic residues in chicken that highlighted the growing antibiotic-resistance in humans which is being caused due to the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in the poultry industry. The report revealed that out of 70 chicken samples from Delhi-NCR region tested for six commonly used antibiotics, 40 per cent samples had tested positive and residues of more than one antibiotics were found in 17 per cent samples. The study pointed to large-scale unregulated use of antibiotics as growth promoters by the poultry industry. (More about the report)Following the impact on chicken sales in certain states of India after the CSE report, the Indian poultry industry had claimed that the antibiotic residue levels were way below the international norms - including ones in the European Union and the United States. Here's what CSE researchers have said in response to their claims -• The poultry industry is misleading the public by saying that residues found in Indian chicken are lower than the EU standards. The EU does not allow antibiotic use as growth promoters in poultry. The standards for antibiotic residues depicting the maximum limit address the therapeutic use.
• Antibiotics are being used extensively for promoting growth and to prevent disease even in the absence of it. In some cases, all the chickens in a poultry farm are exposed to low-dose of antibiotics for their entire life-span, i.e. 35-42 days. Compared to the therapeutic use, wherein a higher dose is given selectively to only those that are sick for about few days to a week to kill the bacteria in the chicken, the non-therapeutic use leads to emergence of resistant bacteria. This is exactly why medical doctors in case of humans prescribe strongly against dropping the antibiotic course in between.The CSE researchers also revealed that certain companies are openly selling antibiotic-laden feed premix to the poultry industry as a growth promoter. They further noted that the bigger issue is the fact that antibiotics are being used indiscriminately. "We need to stop the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics to prevent emergence and spread resistant bacteria. People who do not eat chicken (vegetarians) can also get infected to resistant bacteria through the environment," they said. Call for government actionGovernments worldwide are adopting regulations to control the use of antibiotics. But only those countries have shown signs of improvement that have taken stringent actions. EU, for instance, has banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that antibiotics which are critical for human use should not be used in animals. Countries have also set standards for antibiotics in food commodities. (More: Ban Antibiotics in the Poultry Sector, Demands IMA)Deputy Director General of CSE and head of the lab Chandra Bhushan stated categorically, "India has no regulation on controlling antibiotics use in the poultry industry, or to control sales of antibiotics to the poultry industry. It is free for all. India has not set any limits for antibiotic residues in chicken. India will have to implement a comprehensive set of regulations including banning of antibiotics use as growth promoters in the poultry industry. Not doing this will put the lives of people at risk."
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