In an interview with ChileCarne, Dr. Gabriella Ippolito, Government Affairs Advisor for Elanco Animal Health, a company that offers support on market access and global government relations, provided valuable information for the white meat industry about the new US regulations included in the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, regarding the prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials as of 2025. The expert also shared some keys and actions for Chilean white meat producing and exporting companies to consider when implementing medication programs for animals.
In your opinion, how will the new US regulation that will be applied as of 2025 contribute to better control? How is it different from the previous regulation?
In 2025, we will have presented a new plan to the Government. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in discussions with the animal health industry on how to determine which antimicrobials should be for human use only, categorized by relevance. This work should be ready in 2023. And the industry has played an important role in all these talks.
Here in the US, regulations to fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR) started being drafted in 2013 and entered into effect in 2017. They provided guidance to help the animal health industry understand how to use antibiotics in a healthier and more responsible manner. Subsequently, they decided that medically important antibiotics could not be used for practices like growth promotion.
How are the criteria for antimicrobial usage being applied?
This work has already been completed and companies have gotten used to it with no major issues. The change has not been that quick; it is a slow process that involves numerous conversations with the industry. Currently, for example, we are in consultations with the FDA that should be finalized by 2023, and then we will work together to determine the different categories for antimicrobials.
In 2015, the FDA implemented the Food Safety Modernization Act including new rules on preventive control for animal feed. Could you give us more details about the changes and how they have progressed in recent years?
Initially, they impacted larger feedstuff manufacturers. They had to comply with best manufacturing practices starting in 2016. Smaller companies with less than 500 employees had to comply as of 2018, and even smaller companies, the ones that bring in less than 2.5 million dollars a year, had to comply starting in 2019. Most of the larger manufacturers already had best manufacturing practices in place. Therefore, it was not such a drastic change for them, as it was for smaller producers. This law also applies to countries other than the US. However, whereas in the US inspectors must certify companies regularly (approximately four times a year), we do not send inspectors to other countries, and we just control imported feedstuffs when they arrive in the US.
Do you see other countries that have the same level of strictness that you do?
The European Union, of course, but also Japan, the UK, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. They inspect feed manufacturers frequently as well.
Have you conducted surveys to better understand the opinion of end consumers?
We did a survey to find out what consumers value the most, because we see all sorts of claims about products: being organic, free range, free of antibiotics or not, and everything that is permitted here in the US. In 2018, we asked consumers about the most important aspects of products for them. If you go to the supermarket to buy meat, what are you looking for? They said that they want to buy products that are affordable, tasty, and fresh. Then, we specifically asked them if they cared about hormones or antibiotics, and only after reflecting on our question, they said yes, that it matters as well.
We found out that when we specifically asked about meat without antibiotics in 2016, 53% of those surveyed said they did care. We asked the same question in 2018, and this time 50% answered that it mattered to them. So, we can conclude that there was a drop in those two years and that it is not what matters most to them, as it came after product price or freshness, and it was only mentioned after we specifically asked about it. There are a lot of claims in advertising campaigns (messaging). Companies here in the US can use any claim they find appropriate, as long as it is well documented, explained, and approved by the USDA. Therefore, there is a lot of variety and quantity of claims and the consumer receives a lot of information in the meat market.
Based on what you have been able to observe and analyze, what measures should Chilean companies implement and what should they be vigilant about to meet the new requirements?
The usual topics: being aware of the residue limits for meat exported to the US, for products not to have too many residues on arrival to the US, as well as the specific limits for different products. They have to strictly follow best manufacturing practices to export feedstuffs, which is an important issue for the US. And finally, they should consider what today’s consumer likes.
Could you give us some tips for companies to be ready for these new regulations?
I do not believe they need to do that much at the moment, they just need to follow the latest developments because the regulatory system in the US is not going to change overnight. I think we still have a few years to get ready and see what happens. They can also follow market trends. In the pork market, for example, consumers care less about antibiotics than in the chicken market.
Regarding the pork market, what are the man issues that people do care about?
Pork consumers specifically care about conventional pork, with no specific claims. It is the most popular and the most sold here in the US. It represents a yearly 6.4-million-dollar market in this country, while pork sold with advertising claims has an 82,000-dollar market. So, it is much smaller. The pork market is smaller than the chicken market, which is the most popular and consumed meat in the US.