Welfare Ionophore use in British poultry
The recent media coverage on the use of ionophore coccidiostats in the sector shows lack of clarity around their classification and use. The Council would like to use this opportunity to bring clarity to a complex subject and explain why poultry meat farmers use ionophores (antiparasitics).
Ionophores are animal-only antimicrobials that are not classified as veterinary medicinal products and their usage is not linked to reduction in antibiotics. They are classed as feed additives by the Government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate.
The World Health Organisation, the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE), and the European Surveillance Programme of Veterinary Antibiotics have confirmed that ionophores have no impact to human health. The European Food Safety Agency has also scrutinised the use of ionophores and published opinions have deemed them safe to be used as a feed additive with no risk to humans.
Ionophores are used to control coccidiosis, maintain intestinal integrity, avoid pain and suffering and help deliver good bird health and welfare. If coccidiosis is not controlled, the parasite can cause enteritis in birds leading to intestinal inflammation, reduced absorptive capacity, increased podo-dermatitis, increased mortality and could require the use of medically important antibiotics. Coccidiosis, is an intestinal parasitic disease, that is extremely common in all poultry worldwide regardless of the production system, including indoor-reared, free-range, and organic.