The chicken and eggs you eat could be contaminated with antibiotics, leading to drug resistance in your body, the Law Commission has warned citing studies. The commission has now recommended that antibiotics, including coccidiostats, “shall not be administered” to broiler chickens and egg laying hens except under the supervision of a veterinarian. In its report on poultry birds, the law panel has pointed out that it is also important that the feed used must be nutrient-rich and devoid of antibiotics as it affects the consumer food quality standard. But, “there are no statutory regulations, at present to prescribe the standard, quality and quantity of food for poultry in India which leads to the rampant use of antibiotics in the poultry feed,” the report ‘Transportation and house- keeping of egg-laying hens and broiler chickens’ observed.
It explained that climatic conditions such as temperature and humidity play an important role in attaining maximum production. Higher temperatures would lead to low productivity. “Therefore, the birds are usually kept at constant temperatures in poultry farms in India. The downside to this is that the birds would be more susceptible to diseases even with small changes in climatic conditions, affecting the chances of their survival. Consequently, they are fed antibiotics to boost immunity,” it said. In response to the notice inviting suggestions on the issue, the panel had received several responses, including the one from the Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai.
The Centre said many Indians suffer from antibiotic resistance as it is proven that non-therapeutic antibiotics given to poultry cause such resistance. Such antibiotics are given to poultry because their living conditions are cramped and unhygienic. “With more open, cleaner and ventilated living space the animals are less likely to need these constant antibiotics making their eggs and meat safer for human consumption,” the Centre told the law panel. The law panel recalled that the central government had in the past issued instructions against the use of antibiotics. In June 2014 the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries has also issued an advisory to departments of animal husbandry of all the states saying, regular feeding of antibiotics has serious consequences on the human being since residues of antibiotics may accumulate in meat, milk and eggs.
Besides the report, the law panel has also drafted separate prevention of cruelty to animals rules for egg-laying hens and broiler chickens. As per the draft, “antibiotics, including coccidiostats, shall not be administered except under the supervision of a veterinarian”. If the antibiotics have to be administered for therapeutic purposes (disease treatment), it should be done only under the supervision of a veterinarian. A push by Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi to have a relook at the various laws governing poultry birds had recently prompted the Law Ministry to ask the commission to submit a report based on “existing laws and international trends relating to housekeeping and transportation of poultry birds.”