In July 2019, China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued announcement no. 194 that calls for stopping production, import, commerce, and inclusion of sub-therapeutic growth-promoting antibiotics in animal feed during 2020. Production and import of the drugs is to be suspended as of January 1, 2020, and production of feed additive products containing growth-promoting antibiotics must cease by July 1, 2020. Feed products that have already been produced can be marketed until the deadline of December 31, 2020. The Ministry will also revise standards and work out a regulatory system with the goal of removing growth-promoting antibiotics from use in feed while allowing antibiotics use for disease prevention.
An article in China's Science and Technology Daily explained that the ban is motivated by concerns about drug residues in animal-sourced food and the growing problem of bacteria resistance due to excessive use of antibiotics. A Yangzhou University Professor said that 90 percent of antibiotics are used in livestock and poultry production worldwide. China had already formulated a 2016-2020 action plan to stop bacteria resistance and a 2017-2020 plan to stop bacteria resistance in animal production.
Science and Technology Daily acknowledged that China's agriculture has been seriously impacted by animal diseases and pests, including the African swine fever epidemic and the spread of fall army worm which caused severe losses for some farmers. The paper concluded that Chinese farmers face a challenge of maintaining their industry's development while also preserving food safety and public health. The paper advocated study of more precise testing methods for drug residues and pathogenic bacteria and use of bacteriophages to fight super bugs.
The Yangzhou University Professor said that, "scientific use of medications is still the last word." He went on to emphasize that the ban on antibiotics in feed is a signal to farmers to concentrate on raising animal health and nutrition, adjusting feed nutrition plans, and choosing new types of "green" additives. Farmers must improve farm management and biosafety and build a program to replace antibiotics.
A survey of 100 feed companies by China's Feed Information Network in October found that feed manufacturers were "relatively calm" in the face of the coming ban and exploring antibiotic-free products. Nine percent said they were under pressure from the ban and 61 percent of companies said they were under "some pressure," while 30 percent said they were not under pressure. Forty-three percent of feed companies said they already have antibiotic-free products on the market, 45 percent said they are still doing R&D but have no products on sale, and 12 percent said they are looking into it.
Most feed manufacturers anticipated an increase in feed costs after the ban takes effect. The most common estimate was an increase of 30-100 yuan/tonne (by 64% of respondents), which translates to roughly 1-3 percent based on average prices for compound feeds and less than 1 percent for feed additives. Over 20 percent thought the increase would be more than 100 yuan/tonne, including nearly 5 percent who said the price would rise more than 300 yuan/tonne. Only 12 percent thought there would be no change.
|Chinese feed manufacturers' estimates of increase in feed costs after ban on sub-therapeutic antibiotics|
|Yuan/tonne||Percent of responses|
|over 300 yuan||4.6%|
|China feed industry information net survey of 100 feed manufacturers.|
Acidifiers were the product most often identified as a substitute for antibiotics. Probiotics were identified by 67.8%; functional enzyme preparations by 62.7%; plant-based essential oils by 59.3%; plant extracts by 52.5%; antibacterial peptides by 45.76%; Chinese herbal preparations by 39%; medium/short-chain fatty acids and yeast products 37.3%; and oligosaccharides by 28.8%.