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New FDA Ag Antibiotic Ban Explained

January 23, 2012

ST. LOUIS - Farmers and ranchers in Missouri and around the country are going to have to make some changes when it comes to treating animals with antibiotics. The FDA is banning some off-label uses of the class of medications known as cephalosporins, because of concerns that overuse in animals is creating super bugs, drug-resistant bacteria; that affects people.

David Wallinga, senior adviser on science, food and health at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, applauds the decision.

"The problem with the animal use is that it's helping to create potentially life-threatening infections. The animal use is undercutting the human use."

Wallinga says about 54,000 pounds of cephalosporins were used in producing farm animals in the U.S. in 2010. But he calls that is just a drop in the bucket compared to the widespread use of other antibiotics in agriculture, and he thinks more needs to be done to end routine use of antibiotics in animal husbandry.

"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."

Antibiotics are used in feed to help promote faster growth and ward off possible infections, and are promoted as a way to keep food supplies safe.

Those who oppose the ban 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.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO