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

January 17, 2012

BOSTON - Farmers in Massachusetts 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 FDA for such use. But David Wallinga, senior adviser on science, food and health at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, thinks it's a step in the right direction, and that more needs to be done regarding the over-use of antibiotics in agriculture.

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."

Wallinga says that type of use has created "super bugs" that are drug-resistant, making it tougher to treat infections in humans using cephalosporins, which are very important medications.

"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 U.S. in 2010. Wallinga says that's just 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 penicillin."

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

More information is online at bit.ly/xVxv6y.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - MA