SERDANG: Colistin antibiotic, one of the antibiotics used by farmers and treated as a growth-promoting agent, will be banned in animal feed come Jan 1, said Datuk Salahuddin Ayub.
Those found guilty could risk losing their licences, said the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister.
Colistin antibiotic is the last line of defence for severe infection, especially when patients are attacked by superbugs. Recently, the Health Ministry said deaths from carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) cases went up from 15 in 2013 to 150 last year.
“This is the first step towards prohibiting the use of antibiotics considered critical for humans,” said Salahuddin in a press conference here yesterday during the Antibiotics Use Awareness Programme at Animal Farms, held in conjunction with World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week.
The European Union has banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed since 2006.
Salahuddin warned that the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) would be monitoring animal farms and processing plants, and if the animals or animal products were found to contain antibiotic residue or other drugs, the operators’ licences would be revoked.
He added that the department, through the ministry, would phase out in stages the use of other antimicrobial agents (that are commonly used in humans) in animal food.
He said medicine containing Group B poison such as antibiotic is controlled under the Poisons Act 1952 and can only be prescribed by doctors, licensed veterinarians and pharmacists with verified prescriptions.
Online sale of antibiotics are not allowed under the law, he added.
The DVS had also set withdrawal periods of at least two weeks for the use of antibiotics for treatment before the treated animals were released into the market, he said.
“This is to ensure that the animals do not suffer from side effects or resistance and that the food is clean and safe,” he said.
The ministry, through the DVS, was committed to ensuring that the use of antibiotics in animals, especially those bred for food, was controlled and adhered to the World Animal Health Organisation guidelines, he said.
According to information from DVS, one reason why there was no total ban on all antibiotics used in animal feeds was because many farmers still practised the open system of management, such as in poultry, which predisposes it to more infections.
Many farmers cannot afford to implement the cleaner closed system, which is expensive.