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FDA Aims to Reduce Use of Antibiotics in Farm Animals

PHOTO: There are concerns that the Food and Drug Administration's voluntary program to reduce certain uses of antibiotics for farm animals will not be effective. Overuse has led to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria or so-called "super bugs." Photo credit: Pixmastr
PHOTO: There are concerns that the Food and Drug Administration's voluntary program to reduce certain uses of antibiotics for farm animals will not be effective. Overuse has led to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria or so-called "super bugs." Photo credit: Pixmastr
January 3, 2014

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – With the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to phase out the use of antibiotics to promote faster growth in farm animals, but some claim the efforts don't go far enough.

The FDA's guidance asks the manufacturers to voluntarily change antibiotic labeling to indicate the medications are only for disease prevention.

But Dr. David Wallinga, founder of the advocacy group Healthy Food Action, says many antibiotics are now labeled for a variety of uses, and changing that won't necessarily stop their use.

"FDA is asking the companies to remove all these claims for promoting growth and just leave in place the disease-prevention claims, and leave in place the dosages,” he explains. “And what we worry is that basically, people will just be using them the same as they ever did – for growth promotion, regardless of what they call it."

It's estimated that in 2011 in the U.S., about 8 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for human consumption, but nearly 30 million pounds were sold for meat and poultry production.

Many of the antibiotics used in chickens, cows and pigs also are used to treat humans when they get sick. That has helped contribute to the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which Wallinga notes has been deemed a major threat to public health.

"We have an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant infections,” he stresses. “They're killing more and more people every year. And what everybody now knows, including the Centers for Disease Control as well as your local doctor, is that wherever you overuse antibiotics can help increase antibiotic resistance generally."

With a recent final guidance issued by the FDA, pharmaceutical companies have 90 days to decide whether to participate – and if they choose to, they'll have three years to make the changes.


Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM