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New FDA Ag Antibiotic Ban Explained

January 12, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Farmers and ranchers in Ohio 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."

Although very important for treating human infections, he says, their use in animals can lead to the development of "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."

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.

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, and most of that is the huge amounts of antibiotics put into animal feed -; things like Tetracycline and penicillins."

That type of use, Wallinga says, has created the so-called "super bugs" which are drug-resistant, making it tougher to treat infections in humans using Cephalosporins.

More information is online at iatp.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH