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FDA Poised to Take Stand on Antibiotic Limits

September 21, 2010

DETROIT - With increasing attention being paid to not only what we eat, but where our food comes from, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering guidelines that would limit the use of antibiotics in livestock. The decision is of importance to Michigan, with dozens of livestock farms across the state. Opponents of antibiotic use claim the practice is a major factor in developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Veterinarian Dr. Gail Hansen, a senior officer for Pew Charitable Trusts, says there's a reason why many are concerned about those antibiotics.

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

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 might understand the concerns over the use of antibiotics, the larger companies involved might not.

"Farmers are often under contract with a larger corporation, and they say, 'This is what you will feed the animals and this is the price we will give you.'"

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.

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

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI