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FDA Supports Banning Antibiotics In Healthy Livestock

July 14, 2009

The use of antibiotics in healthy livestock could soon come to an end, according to a statement from a top FDA official on Monday.

In a written testimony, Joshua Sharfstein, Deputy Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said antibiotics should only be used in farm animals that are sick, and only under the supervision of a veterinarian.

“Purposes other than for the advancement of animal or human health should not be considered judicious use,” said Sharfstein. “Eliminating these uses will not compromise the safety of food.”

“FDA also believes that the use of medications for prevention and control should be under the supervision of a veterinarian,” he added.

The testimony was written for a House hearing, and is aimed at reducing the use of antibiotics among healthy livestock due to fears of the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria.

According to the FDA, an estimated 2 million Americans are subject to bacterial infections from hospital visits each year and 70 percent of those infections are resistant to at least one antibiotic.

In a written statement, Margaret Mellon, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, voiced her approval of Sharfstein’s statement.

“Livestock production accounts for about 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States each year. Penicillin, tetracycline and other drugs that doctors prescribe to treat human disease are routinely fed to pigs, cattle and chickens to promote growth and protect them in overcrowded, stressful living conditions,” said Mellon.

“Given there are no new antibiotics under development, unless we preserve the antibiotics we have, the age of miracle antibiotics could come to an end. To make sure that doesn’t happen, the FDA should limit antibiotic use in agriculture whenever possible and cancel the use of those antibiotics used in human medicine in livestock production for growth promotion, feed efficiency and routine disease prevention.”

The House faces a new bill from Democratic representative Louise Slaughter, of New York, which would ban seven classes of antibiotics – penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, lincosamides, streptogramins, aminoglycosides, sulfonamides ““ from being used in livestock.

Supporters of the bill include the American Medical Association, while farm groups, such as the National Pork Producers Council, are opposed to the measure.

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