FDA Seeks Disuse of Antibiotics for Livestock Feed
April 12, 2012

FDA Seeks Disuse of Antibiotics for Livestock Feed

The FDA is asking livestock producers to voluntarily stop using livestock feed that contains antibiotics. The antibiotics in animal feed are not for the treatment for dangerous infections in the animals, but for promoting faster growth in the animals. This practice, though, is producing more drug resistance in microbes.

The microbes, or “superbugs” as they are nicknamed, become increasingly difficult to treat, threatening public health.

Avinash Kar, an attorney with the Natural Resource Defense Council told the AFP news agency, “Public health authorities in the US and around the world agree that the overuse of vast quantities of antibiotics on livestock to hasten weight gain and compensate for crowded, filthy conditions is contributing to the crisis of antibiotic resistance in human medicine.”

The FDA, according to the LA Times, is recommending in its guidelines that the commercial food industry phase out labeling the antibiotics for “production use” and transfer the oversight of the drugs to veterinarians strictly for therapeutic use. The FDA would also like the drug companies to label their products to require a prescription and to allow veterinarians to authorize the use of “certain drugs” in feed.

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said, “The new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective.”

But critics of the voluntary guidelines argue that they don´t go far enough to protect the public health. According to Mike Taylor, the FDA´s commissioner of foods, the process to eliminate all the offending products would be expensive and time consuming, possibly taking decades. He said, “Given that there are in the vicinity of a couple of hundred products involved here, the prospect of going case by case through that process – I mean, that´s decades of effort and millions and millions of dollars in resources.”

But other critics say the FDA should press ahead. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) who is a physician says, “Nonbinding recommendations are not strong enough antidote to the problem“¦additionally, the FDA´s pace here has been nothing short of glacial. They need to move more quickly when the health of the American people is at stake.”