FDA Addresses the Overuse of Antibiotics in Farm Animals

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter is pleased after judge rules FDA must withdraw approval for two classes of antibiotics in animal feed.

| March 23, 2012

pink pig

A recent court ruling will keep two classes of antibiotics, penicillin and tetracyclines, out of animal feed.


On March 23, 2012, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), the only microbiologist in Congress, applauded a landmark ruling after a judge decided that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must act to limit the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals.

“It’s about time,” said Slaughter. “The FDA has been dragging its feet on this for 35 years. We’ve all known that this is a public health issue for quite some time. Of course if an animal is sick, it should be treated. But the evidence for ending the daily dosing of antibiotics to otherwise healthy animals is overwhelming. I’m pleased to finally see some progress and I can only hope that we see swift action from the FDA on this looming crisis.”

The ruling stems from a lawsuit brought last year by a coalition of consumer of advocacy groups suing the FDA over its inaction in addressing the growing public health threat posed by the daily dosing of antibiotics in livestock feed and the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The lawsuit came on the heels of an FDA report released to Slaughter confirming that 80 percent of antibiotics are sold for use in agriculture.

In 1977 the FDA proposed withdrawing approval for penicillin and tetracyclines from livestock feed, recognizing the danger posed to public health. Since then, the FDA has taken no action to limit its use. Yesterday’s ruling forces the FDA to withdraw approval for the two classes of antibiotics.

Since 2007, Congresswoman Slaughter has been the author of legislation titled The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), designed to ensure that we preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for the treatment of human disease. The legislation would prevent the overuse of seven classes of antibiotics, including penicillin and tetracyclines.

“We still have a lot of work to do here,” said Slaughter. “This is a good first step but to really get in front of this problem we must address all classes of antibiotics in farm animals that are important to human health. That’s why I will continue to press for passage of PAMTA.”

t brandt
4/26/2012 9:19:32 PM

Many people falsely think that infections from "resistant bacteria" are any worse than those from non-resistant bacteria. They are in fact no different. It's just that with a severe infection (large wound or large inoculum or compromised host) where the patient's natural defenses need some medical help, we have fewer antibiotics available to fight the mutltply resistant strains...As I said before, antibiotic resistance is not a factor in the vast majority of bacteria associated food-born illnesses.The poicy doesn't affect our safety, only our pocket-books and our freedom.

t brandt
4/26/2012 9:02:49 PM

Thanks for correcting me, but I have to wonder what a BS with major in microbiology entailed in 1951. We didn't even know the structure of DNA then.

craig thorne
4/26/2012 1:53:06 AM

Im not so sure i'd use the number of MRSA cases as a measure for antibiotic resistance in microorganisms. Having worked in a meat producing facility that used antibiotics in feed stock, I know from personal experience how dangerous this has made the working environment at the facility. Specifically referring to people that had superficial injures like abrasions and scrapes and developed serious infections that required hospitalization including intravenous applications of very expensive antibiotics to "hopefully" stop the infection before permanent damage is done to tendons and bones. It doesn't take someone with a degree to be worried about these organisms being spread about our environment. The producer is stuck as well in that they need to compete along with other producers that used antibiotics, whose cost is subsidized with my tax dollars. So unless they go to producing "organic" products and competing in a smaller more specialized market they will probably go under. You can't expect the industry to police this so it make sense to have a government agency push thru code requirements that will help public safety.

tammy rockwell
4/25/2012 8:11:14 PM

If you had taken a few more moments to review her website rather than simply grasping the information that suits your agenda, you would not have falsely accused the author of "disingenuously referring to her as Congress' only microbiologist". Her biography clearly states that she holds a Bachelor of Science degree (1951) in Microbiology and a Master of Science degree (1953) in Public Health from the University of Kentucky. No cookie for you.

t brandt
4/19/2012 10:15:17 PM

Good, fair questions. Antibiotics given to cattle, for example, will allow each animal to gain about 50 extra pounds on the same ration of feed as an untreated animal.That means the rancher will have to charge more per lb to maintain his income if not allowed to use antibiotics. It also means we need to use more land for feed to produce the same amount of meat with untreated vs treated cattle. That extra 50 lb @ current market value of ~ $1.50/ib represents $75 to the producer. Without it, his profit falls almost 40%. Most ranchers have fewer than 100 head. A 40% fall in income puts him at the "why bother?" point of investment risk/profit analysis (actually, even with the full profit, it's a questionable decision.)...Liberals, actually having a socialistic, OneWorld agenda, wishing to impose total dominance over all of us, use the enthusiasm and naivete of the partially educated for political power. These amassed voters ignorantly believe the propaganda of the Left as they use "Environmental Issues" to solidify their base. Controlling our food supply is the ultimate power play....I pick on the congresswoman specifically because the author of this article uses her as the subject, disingenuously referring to her as "Congress' only microbiologist." She is not a microbiologist, according to her own website. She is a Liberal, as is, no doubt, the judge that made the ruling, ignoring the science....BTW- we have been using antibiotics in food production for at least 3 decades now and there has not been even one case of human disease caused by the practice. Why exactly, then, do we need to address this "problem" at all if not for the ancillary effect of imposing governmental power & controll?

clint thompson
4/19/2012 5:23:47 PM

I'm a little confused by some of your statements. How exactly does not using billions of dollars of pharmaceutical resources on our livestock a) work to remove meat from our diets b)add to the cost of protein c) force more land to be diverted from nature to provide for food d) force producers out of business. Also I'm a little confused becuase you seem to blame the Congresswoman from New York when the decision came through a Judiciary official.

t brandt
4/19/2012 11:45:28 AM

Check out the congresswoman's site: she's not a microbiologist (obvious from her position on this subject), but holds a degree in Public Health (means she was taught how to fill out all the forms that over-burden our health care system).... Out of 9 Billion chickens, 60 million cattle & 60 million hogs that go to slaughter in this country annually, ONE case of MRSA has been found (and that was traced back to a HUMAN source).... Is this a big enough problem to allow the Nannycrats to meddle in our agricultural practices, done only to satisfy their unnscientific ideology of trying to eliminate meat from our diets? ...This will add to the cost of protein for our diets with no benefit to our health. It will mean more land diverted from Nature to provide our food. It will mean more producers going out of business....Good going, Congresswoman. You deserve a cookie for keeping the tradition of ignorant legislation flowing out of Washington making things worse for Americans.

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