Farmers and Antibiotic Use: What RDs Need to Know About New FDA Guidelines and Responsible Messaging in a Retail Setting

Farmers and Antibiotic Use: What RDs Need to Know About New FDA Guidelines and Responsible Messaging in a Retail Setting

July 27, 2016

Today’s shopper seeks greater transparency to how their food is grown and raised, and buzz words like clean label, hormone-free and antibiotic resistance are commonly seen in the media. Retail dietitians must be well versed in all of these topics in order to keep shoppers engaged and shopping all departments of the store.

Antibiotic use in food animals is one of these topics RDs must be prepared to address. On January 1, 2017, new FDA regulations that address antibiotic use in swine, cattle, poultry and fish go into effect.

Antibiotics are critical to treat and prevent disease – in humans and animals. Without the responsible and timely use of antibiotics, sickness can spread rapidly on a farm, endangering the health of animals and the safety of our food. The FDA and USDA regulate the use of animal and human antibiotics and play an important role to ensure responsible antibiotic use in animals. The new regulation changes include the ending of most growth promotion uses (all medically important antibiotics) and most feed-grade antibiotics will no longer be available over-the-counter but will require a veterinary feed directive and antibiotics in water will require a prescription. This is a significant regulatory step that will change how antimicrobials are used in food animal production on farms of all sizes.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regularly tests and monitors meat to ensure its safety and ensure there are no harmful residues before it enters the food supply. Animals who have received antibiotics cannot enter the food supply until a withdraw period has been enforced. These inspections and safeguards throughout the food chain ensure that antibiotics used in animal production, including pork, support both good health in animals and a safe food supply for humans. The term “no antibiotics” may be used on labels if the producer sufficiently documents that the animals were raised without antibiotics. Animals raised without antibiotics do not produce a safer or higher quality product than those raised in a conventional manner. For more information on meat labeling claims please visit: 

The pork industry supports the new guidelines and is committed to ensuring responsible antibiotic use in animals to protect the efficacy of antibiotics for humans and animals. The National Pork Board has developed five principles to guide producers in using antibiotics responsibly. It is the producer's responsibility to take action in implementing these principles and training managers and caretakers appropriately. For more information on these principles please visit:

Consumers are confused by the role antibiotics play in food production and human health. Registered Dietitians score high as a trusted and credible source for information. Responsible messaging in a retail setting will help manage the questions health professionals are getting from consumers. Ways to address the antibiotic questions can include messages similar to:   

  • Antibiotic resistance is a public health threat. It is the responsibility of all of us to address it.
  • Antibiotics to treat or prevent illness are essential for both pigs and humans - healthy pigs make safe food.
  • Pig farmers are committed to finding new ways to reduce the need for antibiotics by working with veterinarians, USDA and the FDA to ensure responsible use. 

For more pork recipes and nutrition information visit