FDA Seeks to Limit Antibiotics in Animal Feed04/11/12
WEDNESDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration on Wednesday called on food producers, drug
companies and veterinarians to help limit the use of antibiotics in
The practice of mixing antibiotics in animal feed to make
livestock, pigs and chickens gain weight and become more resistant
to disease has been criticized for years in many quarters. Health
experts contend that this overuse of antibiotics has led to an
increase of germs -- such as staph -- that are growing increasingly
resistant to antibiotics, threatening human health.
The FDA said it was issuing three documents to help
veterinarians, farmers and animal producers use medically important
antibiotics "judiciously" by limiting their use only to combat
diseases and other health problems in animals. Under this
"voluntary" initiative, certain antibiotics would not be used for
so-called "production" purposes, which include enhancing growth or
improving the effectiveness of animal feed, the agency said in a
These antibiotics would still be available to prevent, control
or treat illnesses in food-producing animals under the supervision
of a veterinarian, the agency said.
"We know that the widespread use of antibiotics can contribute to antimicrobial resistance, which has public health consequences," Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for foods, said during a noon press briefing. "We know that the use of medically important drugs for production purposes in food-producing animals is a contributing factor."
The FDA is proposing a three-year voluntary plan to change how
antibiotics are labeled and used in farm animals. The agency hopes
these steps will help preserve the effectiveness of these drugs for
The FDA said it decided at this time to make the changes
voluntary, not mandatory.
"With the willingness of drug companies and others in the animal-production industry to collaborate in implementing our strategy, we can make changes more quickly than if we had to rely on a cumbersome regulatory process," Taylor said. "Working together is how we will get results in a timely manner."
But, if after three years, progress is lagging, then the FDA
will consider tougher measures, he said.
The three documents, or plans, released by the FDA Wednesday are
designed to help farmers, animal producers and veterinarians to use
antibiotics in farm animals only to treat diseases.
The plans will ensure that certain antibiotics aren't used to
enhance growth or improve feed efficiency in animals. These
antibiotics could still be used to "prevent, control or treat
illnesses in food-producing animals under the supervision of a
veterinarian," the FDA said in a news release.
According to the FDA, the three documents being issued include
guidelines for industry to assist in phasing out the use of
antibiotics and increasing the oversight by veterinarians. The
second document is a proposal to help drug companies phase out
recommendations on using antibiotics for farm animals. And the
third proposal outlines how veterinarians can use animal drugs in
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also involved with the new
Dr. John Clifford, chief veterinary medical officer for the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, said in the news release: "USDA worked
with the FDA to ensure that the voices of livestock producers
across the country were taken into account, and we will continue to
collaborate with the FDA, the American Veterinary Medical
Association and livestock groups to ensure that the appropriate
services are available to help make this transition."
Commenting on the changes, Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale
University School of Medicine's Prevention Research Center, said
that "antimicrobial resistance is among the scariest trends in
modern public health."
"We are in a race with germs that can cause infection and death, and when new kinds of resistance emerge, the germs get out ahead of us. The threat of serious infections we simply don't have drugs to treat is very realistic," he said.
While most people think antibiotic use by people is the major
cause of such resistance, widespread use of the drugs in the
raising of feed animals is probably an even bigger problem, Katz
"FDA guidance intended to reduce use of antibiotics in animal husbandry is thus important, timely, and very welcome. But, the new guidance is voluntary," he noted. "The real measure of this initiative will be how widely and rapidly it is applied."
Public health advocates are skeptical about asking drug makers
to voluntarily restrict use of their products.
"The FDA is asking the public health community and those suffering from diseases whose antibiotic treatment has been compromised to simply trust them, and to trust the voluntary plan and the cooperation of the pharmaceutical industry to bring about needed change," Richard Wood, chairman of Keep Antibiotics Working, said in a news release. "This is not about trust. This is a question of whether or not the FDA has fulfilled its mandate of protecting public health."
To learn more about antibiotic resistance, visit the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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