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New FDA Ban Aimed at Reducing Prevalence of "Super Bugs"

January 11, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas - Farmers and ranchers in Texas and around the nation have a couple more months to find alternatives to a common antibiotic used to treat farm animals before it's banned by the Food and Drug Administration.

The ban is a step in the right direction, says David Wallinga, senior adviser on science, food and health at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. More needs to be done regarding the use of antibiotics in agriculture, he says, adding that he's in favor of the ban on certain off-label uses of the class of antibiotics known as Cephalosporins.

"Those were being used in agriculture for unapproved uses, like injecting into cattle and into eggs."

That type of use, Wallinga says, has created so-called "super bugs" which are drug-resistant, making it tougher to treat infections in humans using Cephalosporins. Although very important for treating human infections, he says, their use in animals can lead to the development of the super bugs.

"The problem with the animal use is that it's helping to create potentially life-threatening infections with those bugs that are resistant to treatment with that drug. So, the animal use is undercutting the human use."

About 54,000 pounds of Cephalosporins were used in producing U.S. farm animals in 2010, Wallinga says, noting that that's a drop in the bucket when it comes to antibiotics in agriculture.

"According to FDA's own data, 29 million pounds of antibiotics are being used each year in agriculture; things like Tetracycline and penicillins."

Those who oppose the ban say there are already few options for effective animal antibiotics, and this takes away another one of them. The ban goes into effect April 5.

More information is online at iatp.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX