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FDA Poised to Take Stand on Antibiotic Limits

September 23, 2010

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. The decision is of importance to the Golden State, which is home to many large livestock farms. Opponents of routine antibiotic use claim the practice is a major factor in developing antibiotic resistant bacteria. Veterinarian Gail Hansen of the Pew Charitable Trusts explains why many are concerned.

"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."

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is a lead sponsor of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). Hansen says the bill aims to curb antibiotic resistance by banning their routine use.

"That would really take back the practice of medicine and give it back to veterinarians, so antibiotics would be given by veterinary prescription basically."

According to Pew, up to 70 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to healthy animals on industrial farms to promote growth and compensate for overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.

Major livestock producers argue that a direct link between farm antibiotic use 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.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA