IFFO claims antibiotic resistance food article is inaccurate

11 Sep 2017

IFFO stated: "The majority of fishmeal is produced from whole fish caught in the wild where there is no contact with antibiotics"

An article which links fishmeal to antibiotic resistance makes “sweeping generalisations” claims IFFO.

The Economist’s ‘Antibiotic resistance in fish farms is passed on from fish food’ article, which focuses on a feed study, said that the “discovery of fish food as a source of resistance genes migrating into oceanic bacteria is worrying” but IFFO stated that "the majority of fishmeal is produced from whole fish caught in the wild where there is no contact with antibiotics, nor are antibiotics used in the manufacturing process.”

In the research study analysed by The Economist, the researchers obtained five commonly used fishmeal products and subjected each one to a detailed genetic analysis.

Drug-resistance genes

The Economist said this revealed the presence of 132 'drug-resistance' genes, suggesting that heavy antibiotic use on the fish products which are themselves ground up into fishmeal formulations, was behind the transfer of genes.

In a letter to The Economist, IFFO stated the article makes “very sweeping generalisations based on (a) scientific paper that reports on a very small sample size.”

It said the findings need further investigation “not least of all due to the reported presence of several antibiotics in fishmeal made from whole wild fish that would not have come into contact with antibiotics at any stage.

“Fishmeal samples are named as being from various countries of origin but were purchased locally in China with no guarantee of their purity or integrity. Given reports of adulteration of imported fishmeal in China, this is clearly a concern.”

Small sample range

IFFO noted that only five samples of marine sediment were taken, with no control sample for comparison from elsewhere in the marine environment.

It said the majority of fishmeal is made from small species of wild caught, whole fish for which there is no human consumption market.

While trimmings, offcuts and byproducts from fish processing are recycled into fishmeal, much of this material is also from wild caught fish so would also not come into contact with antibiotics, it stated.

IFFO said the remaining portion of byproducts from farmed fish could conceivably have had some contact with antibiotics but their use is strictly controlled and, as fish health management and vaccines improve, is reducing over time with some farming areas now antibiotic free for many years.

It stressed: “There is good evidence to suggest that the use of fishmeal in fish feed is actually therapeutic, contributing to better gut health and immune systems, making farmed fish less likely to need treatment with antibiotics.”

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