A government move to ban the use of strong antibiotics in poultry farms could help insulate animal product exporters from international criticism on drug contamination. This comes at a time when reports have emerged that people consuming animal products laced with strong antibiotics develop drug resistance. 

The government is proposing a ban on the use of strong drugs like colistin, an antibiotic widely used in the meat and poultry industry to make animals grow faster says a report by livemint.com.

The move follows a decision of the Drugs Technical Advisory Board, the country's to drugs advisory body, at a meeting on November 29 to ban the use of colistin, also called the drug of last hope, in animals.

World Health Organization has asked member states to restrict the use of antibiotics critically important to human medicine in animals. The European Union banned colistin in 2006, while Malaysia and China did so this year.

Widespread use of colistin

The use of colistin and other such strong broad-spectrum drugs in livestock has been linked to antibiotic resistance in humans. Colistin helps chicken to gain weight faster than it naturally would. Public health experts have warned that continued use of strong antibiotics in farming makes them useless in treating human patients.

A study by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism earlier this year found that Indian poultry carried some of the strongest antibiotics, rocking the export market of poultry.

This study also found that companies like Venky's—the biggest chicken product supplier to McDonald's, Pizza Hut and KFC—used colistin in their produce. 

Venky's has taken the stand that its antibiotics use is limited to therapeutic purposes.

A host of government agencies including the department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Ministry of agriculture and farmers' welfare, Ministry of health and family welfare and the drug controller general of India has examined this matter and recommended a colistin ban, the media report said.

National antibiotic policy technical advisory member Dr Abdul Ghafur, who is also coordinator of the implementation panel of Chennai declaration on antimicrobial resistance, had urged the government to formulate an appropriate response to growing global concerns on drug residue in animal products.

The availability of colistin in India's drugstores without medical prescription has been a matter of concern. The London journalists' body expressed shock that growth-promoting antibiotics, including colistin from international and domestic pharmaceutical companies, are widely available to Indian farmers. "The Bureau found multiple examples of Indian drug manufacturers selling colistin as a growth promoter for chicken," the report said.