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.

  • pink pig

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.”

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.

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.

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