Global perspective Human stories

UN agency urges countries to stop use of antibiotic in food production

UN agency urges countries to stop use of antibiotic in food production

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today suggested that countries phase out the use of an antibiotic in food production that has been shown to cause genetic defects and possibly lead to cancer.

In a statement issued from of the agency’s Rome headquarters, FAO said that chloramphenicol, a broad-spectrum antibiotic used in human and pet animal medicine, has been evaluated several times by an internationally recognized scientific committee and was found to be genotoxic.

Chloramphenicol is also known to cause an extremely serious disease in people called “aplastic anaemia,” but the incidence of this disease is rare and probably could not be attributed to residues in food, according to findings of the Joint FAO/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives.

FAO issued the statement after a recent food scare from chloramphenicol residues in animal feed. Most countries have banned the agent for use in food animal production, but it is still being used in some countries, in part in aquaculture.

The UN agency recommended that all countries should develop an effective risk management strategy, based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System, known as HACCP, to produce safer food.

In addition, developing countries need help to improve their agricultural production methods, veterinary services and food control, FAO said, suggesting that national competence centres be developed in each country to prevent food-borne diseases and contaminants.