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'Use of antibiotics in livestock, poultry industry affecting public health'

'Use of antibiotics in livestock, poultry industry affecting public health'

ISLAMABAD: Most Pakistanis are becoming resistant to antibiotics by their therapeutic misuse or consuming meat from livestock and poultry raised with the routine use of antibiotics meant to treat human illnesses, experts said.

This was argued by healthcare professionals and rights advocates at the seminar organised by Consumer Rights Commission of Pakistan (CRCP) on Tuesday to commemorate the World Consumer Rights Day, highlighting this year a major international public health crisis of antibiotic resistance.

“In Pakistan, more than half of antibiotic use is unnecessary and avoidable,” asserted Dr Muhammad Kamran Khan, a healthcare expert currently associated with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

But, surprisingly, it is not just the doctors being offhand about writing prescriptions in order to gain early results and establish credibility with today’s consumers of healthcare.

“A great majority of important antibiotics sold in Pakistan are also sold for poultry and livestock as growth promoters and routine disease prevention,” said Dr Khan.

He explained that when the producers of livestock and poultry routinely administer antibiotics to their herds and flocks, bacteria develop resistance and then spread to consumers of meat, help fuelling the problem of antibiotic resistance.

“By taking presently effective antibiotics for granted, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era in which these most important drugs stop working anymore and patients fail to survive common diseases and infections,” added Dr Khan.

Talking about the remedial measures, Rabia Shabbir, research fellow at the CRCP, said that apart from stringent government regulations, a strong consumer voice is required to urge the livestock and poultry producers as well as major restaurants, fast-food companies and chains across the country to stop serving meat from animals raised with the routine use of antibiotics used in human medicine.

“Unfortunately, the food industry in Pakistan is relatively unorganised and largely unregulated, making the challenge deeper than the other countries of the world,” said Shabbir.

“However, the fast-food companies and restaurants are in a position to positively use their huge buying power to make a big difference to the supply chain.”

Apart from use of antibiotics in food-producing animals in Pakistan, added Shabbir, illegal slaughterhouses, trade of dead animals and sale of unhygienic meat are other grave issues, which need to be tackled on urged basis along with the antibiotic resistant food.

Participants of the seminar jointly urged the government to launch a public awareness programme to curb antibiotic use in livestock and poultry.

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