FDA Calls for Reduced Use of Antibiotics in Animals

After 35 years of urging farmers and ranchers to curb their use of antibiotics as growth inducers in animals, the FDA has announced a new collaboration with drug companies, vets, and livestock producers to limit the practice.

Some farmers and ranchers routinely give antibiotics to livestock in small doses so that the animals grow larger. But as the FDA warns, administering drugs that way can cause the spread of harmful strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that affect humans as well as animals. The New York Times reports that every year at least 2 million people grow sick and 99,000 people die from resistant strains.

Stephen McDonnell, founder and CEO of Applegate, a natural and organic cheese company, expressed skepticism about how much impact the FDA’s recent move will have. He pointed out that the government organization has made a strong recommendation against the use of growth-inducing antibiotics, rather than banning the practice outright. “The FDA’s recommendations use the word ‘should,’ but we all know that stopping the negligent use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is a ‘must,’ in order to save these important drugs to battle infections,” he said. The FDA’s deputy commissioner for food, Michael Taylor, told NPR’s The Salt that asking for voluntary collaboration will be more effective than requiring livestock producers to comply, because an attempt to defend a ban of hundreds of specific drugs in court would require “decades of effort, and millions and millions of dollars of resources.”


FDA Says ‘No’ to Drugged Up Livestock

Cows, chickens, and pigs in America are on lots of drugs — and even account for 80 percent of the country’s antibiotic consumption, Time reports.

But now, Food and Drug Administration officials have called on the ag industry to limit antibiotic use in livestock, as they think it might lead to the growth of deadly, drug-resistant bacteria: On January 4, the FDA banned farmers from using a class of these medicines in excess or for preventative reasons.

This particular group of antibiotics, cephalosporins, gets used frequently in humans to treat strep throat and bronchitis, Time notes.

The livestock industry commonly doses animals with antibiotics before they get sick, though they are not intended to prevent disease.

About 100,000 Americans die each year from infections related to drug-resistant bacteria, Time reports, and many fear that the situation will only worsen if animals routinely ingest antibiotics in their food and water.

This is not the first time the FDA has moved to enact such a rule.

In 2008, the administration tried establishing a similar regulation, but got too much flack from the ├╝ber-wealthy ag lobby.