India Must Stop Misusing Antibiotics in Dairy Sector, According to CSE Report
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has raised concerns over whether the milk we consume is safe. Hosting a virtual meeting in July, the CSE discussed the use of antibiotics with the world’s largest producer of milk, India. Over 188 million tonnes of milk was produced by India over the period of 2018-2019 and lead with 22% of global milk production.
A recent assessment by the CSE has found indication of antibiotic abuse in milk producing cattle.
“We have found that antibiotics are extensively misused in the dairy sector; antibiotic residues remain largely untested in milk, an integral part of Indian diets, particularly of children,” said CSE Director General Sunita Narain. “While we continue to struggle against COVID-19, we are staring at another pandemic like situation – that of antibiotic resistance fueled by the way we are producing our food, which has become chemical-intensive.”
Antibiotics such as penicillin, aminoglycosides and fluroquinolones are being ‘indiscriminately’ used by dairy farmers according to the CSE. These antibiotics are among the most important in human health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned as we face growing concerns over an antibiotic resistance, such antibiotics should be preserved.
Despite laws stating that antibiotics should only be prescribed and administered by a registered veterinarian, the CSE said that some farmers are illegally attaining and injecting animals themselves without the supervision of veterinarians.
“Farmers often sell milk while the animal is under treatment, which increases the chances of antibiotic residues in the milk,” explained Amit Khurana, the CSE’s Food Safety and Toxins Programme Director. “While milk sold directly to consumers is not tested, contrary to what one would expect, processed milk sold in packets is also largely unchecked for antibiotic residues.
“This explains why, despite pooling and processing, packed milk samples from several states had antibiotic residues in the FSSAI’s [Food Safety and Standards Authority of India] milk quality survey of 2018.”
However, CSE noted the virtual meeting has encouraged positive signs of action in the diary industry in India.
“The issues highlighted by the CSE assessment have been well recognised by the experts and stakeholders. These experts have also recommended several measures for minimising antibiotic misuse in the Indian dairy sector.”
In order to minimise the threat of antibiotic resistance, the CSE have recommended “preventative measures” such as;
- Routine observation of drugs residues in milk
- Modifying the existing standards for antibiotic residues in milk
- Limiting misuse of essential antibiotics such as penicillin
Such measures, Khurana noted, are showing some success. “Information shared by various organisations, agencies and experts suggest that ethno-veterinary medicines, better management of sub-clinical mastitis, and good farm management are contributing towards reducing antibiotic misuse.”
“India is now talking about antibiotic resistance in the one-health perspective,” noted Narain. “There is a shared concern, and all voices are now together in expressing that concern.” As such he believes further (and necessary) action will be taken.
“We must ramp up surveillance and testing, put a complete stop to the use of critically important antibiotics and penalise their use,” he added, “and work with farmers and the agriculture-dairy sectors to innovate on solutions.”
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