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

January 13, 2012

HARRISBURG, Penn. – Farmers in Pennsylvania and around the country only 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 (FDA).

David Wallinga, senior adviser on science, food and health with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, believes the ban is a step in the right direction - and that more needs to be done regarding the use of antibiotics in agriculture. The ban applies to certain off-label uses of the class of antibiotics known as Cephalosporins.

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

Wallinga says that type of use has created drug-resistant "super bugs," resulting in tougher-to-treat infections in humans.

"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 farm animals in the United States in 2010. Wallinga says that's a drop in the bucket when it comes to antibiotics in agriculture.

"According to the 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."

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 on April 5.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA