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FDA Poised to Take Stand on Antibiotic Limits

September 17, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. - With increasing attention being paid to not only what we eat, but where our food comes from, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering guidelines that would limit the use of antibiotics in livestock, with the goal of reducing risks to consumers in Connecticut and around the country.

Opponents of antibiotic use claim that the practice is a major factor in developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A veterinarian and spokesperson for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, Dr. Gail Hansen, explains why many are concerned.

"They're given at low doses, which means the doses are not considered high enough to kill the bacteria. That's a perfect recipe for developing bacterial resistance."

Major livestock producers argue that a direct link between farms and human illness has not been proven. Other groups, including the American Medical Association, want to see the government take an even stronger stance that would, in most cases, prohibit the use of antibiotics in healthy animals.

Other countries have already taken steps to reduce the use of antibiotics. The European Union outlawed their use in healthy livestock four years ago.

Hansen explains that while some farmers may understand the concerns over the use of antibiotics, the larger companies involved may not.

"Farmers are often under contract with a large corporation that says, ‘This is what you will feed the animals and this is the price we will give you.’"

Many scientists believe that the drug-resistant bacteria that develop on livestock farms can be passed along in the meat that we eat.

More information about the proposed guidelines is available at www.fda.gov.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT