India’s poultry industry feuds with NGO over antibiotics

By Raghavendra Verma, in New Delhi

- Last updated on GMT

A row over antibiotic use in chicken has broken out in India
A row over antibiotic use in chicken has broken out in India

Related tags Poultry

A public row has broken out between non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in India and the country’s poultry industry over the vexed issue of the use of antibiotics on Indian farms.

The All India Poultry Development and Services (AIPDS), an industry body based in southern state of Karnataka, has been angered by public statements made by the Mobius Foundation​, a New Delhi-based NGO.

It took out a Times of India​ advertisement on 22 February, claiming in bold letters that: “Eating antibiotic-dosed chicken is hazardous to health, especially for children.”​ A Mobius spokesperson later told GlobalMeatNews​: “We don’t want to harm anybody’s business and it was purely in the general public interest.”

That is not how the Indian poultry sector viewed this, however, with AIPDS subsequently taking out an advertisement, also in the Times of India​, accusing Mobius of working for western poultry exporters.

“Vested interests from western countries through so-called NGO foundations appear to be trying to spread false and misleading information alleging indiscriminate usage of antibiotics,”​ said a front-page ad, which said western companies were struggling to match Indian production costs.

Ramesh Chander Khatri, president of the Poultry Federation of India, rejected any allegations that the sector misuses antibiotics.

In a second advertisement supporting Indian manufacturers, AIPDS mentioned a study by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based green watchdog, saying: “The maximum residue limits (MRL) ​[of antibiotics] in chicken meat in India are much lower than the permitted MRL as per European Union standards.”

This prompted an angry public statement by the CSE, which noted: “They ​[AIPDS] are misguiding the nation and trying to dilute their contribution to the problem of antibiotic resistance.”

According to CSE, its 2014 study on MRL had been misrepresented and it accused the Indian poultry industry of using life-saving drugs, such as colistin, simply to fatten chickens.

Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the CSE, told GlobalMeatNews​ that, big Indian food companies actually prescribed such medicines to supply farmers, who administered “a regular dose of antibiotics because they ​[buying companies] assume that farmers are not going to maintain bio-safety provisions”. ​Most of the Indian poultry farms are still small, with less than a few thousand birds, he said.

However, Bhushan added that Indian middle-class consumers were looking for antibiotic-free poultry meat, fuelling a growing market for residue-free product. “There are number of firms that have started supplying vegetable- and herbal-based alternatives to antibiotics,”​ he said. “This is going to improve the situation.”

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