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FDA Aims to Reduce Use of Antibiotics in Farm Animals

PHOTO: There are concerns that the Food and Drug Administration's voluntary program to reduce certain uses of antibiotics for farm animals won't be effective. Overuse has led to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria or so-called "super bugs." Photo credit: Pixmastr
PHOTO: There are concerns that the Food and Drug Administration's voluntary program to reduce certain uses of antibiotics for farm animals won't be effective. Overuse has led to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria or so-called "super bugs." Photo credit: Pixmastr
December 17, 2013

PHOENIX - With the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the FDA wants to phase out the use of antibiotics to promote faster growth in farm animals, but some people claim its efforts to do that don't go far enough.

The FDA's guidance asks the manufacturers to voluntarily change antibiotic labeling to indicate that the medications are only for disease prevention. However, according to Dr. David Wallinga, the founder of Healthy Food Action, many antibiotics are now labeled for a variety of uses and changing that won't necessarily stop their use.

"FDA is asking the companies to remove all these claims for promoting growth and just leave in place the disease-prevention claims, and leave in place the dosages," he said. "And what we worry is that basically, people will just be using them the same as they ever did, for growth promotion, regardless of what they call it."

It's estimated that in 2011 in the U.S., a total of about 8 million pounds of antibiotics was sold for human consumption, but a total of nearly 30 million pounds was sold for meat and poultry production.

Many of the antibiotics used in chickens, cows and pigs also are used to treat humans when they get sick. That has contributed to the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which Wallinga noted has been deemed a major threat to public health.

"We have an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant infections. They're killing more and more people every year," he declared. "And what everybody now knows, including the Centers for Disease Control as well as your local doctor, is that wherever you overuse antibiotics can help increase antibiotic resistance generally."

With a recent final guidance issued by the FDA, pharmaceutical companies have 90 days to decide whether to participate, and if they choose to, they'll have three years to make the changes.

More information from the FDA is at 1.usa.gov/1cpcswb.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ