US to phase out antibiotics for fattening livestock
2013-12-13 0:00

By Andy Coghlan | NewScientist

The practice of feeding antibiotics to healthy farm animals to fatten them up is being phased out in the US, a move that should help quell antibiotic resistance. However, the Food and Drug Administration has been criticised for failing to make the move compulsory.

Antibiotic-resistant microbes are thought to kill 23,000 Americans each year and infect 2 million. In the US, 80 per cent of the antibiotics are given to farm animals. Since resistance develops when microbes are repeatedly exposed to antibiotics, giving them to healthy animals exacerbates the problem.

The FDA, which first proposed a ban in 1977, has told pharmaceutical companies that manufacture medically important antibiotics given to animals to voluntarily withdraw them from use as growth promoters.

The manufacturers have three years to change labels on the antibiotics and other antimicrobials to state that they can only be given to animals for veterinary reasons, and prescribed by a vet.

Campaigners for the ban denounced the voluntary nature of the measures. "The FDA’s policy is an early holiday gift to the industry," says Avinash Kar, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council pressure group in Washington DC. "FDA has essentially followed a voluntary approach for more than 35 years, but the use of these drugs to raise animals has increased, and there’s no reason why voluntary recommendations will make a difference now," he said.

Shelly Burgess, a spokeswoman for the FDA says that the administration will review the scheme in three years’ time. "The agency will then consider if further action is warranted," she said. "The FDA is confident it will see a high level of cooperation in implementing the recommended changes."


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FDA Plan For Livestock Antibiotics Phase-Out Is Too Little, Too Late
By Alex Formuzis | EWG

The federal Food and Drug Administration’s call for the livestock industry to voluntarily stop dosing healthy animals with antibiotics is “is long overdue and inadequate”, Heather White, executive director of the Environmental Working Group, said today.

“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are omnipresent in much of the U.S. meat supply,” White said. “We need a bold and aggressive plan to address this public health problem. Instead, the FDA has developed a weak proposal riddled with loopholes that could allow industry to continue its widespread use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.”

White made these points:

- The FDA’s voluntary measure may not cause a significant decrease in the unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals produced for meat. Industrial livestock producers can ignore it.

- Industrial livestock producers could change the technical characterization of their antibiotics usage from “growth promotion” to "disease prevention." Such semantics could mislead the public into believing that livestock producers and pharmaceutical companies are making a contribution to the effort to prevent the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, when in fact, they are engaging in business as usual.

However, White said the FDA plan has one positive feature: it would call for veterinary supervision of antibiotics administered to all livestock.

Last April, EWG issued a study called Superbugs Invade American Supermarkets, which documented the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in most ground beef, ground turkey and pork sold in American supermarkets.

This report analyzed tests conducted by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a joint project of the federal Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture, that found supermarket meat samples collected in 2011 harbored significant amounts of the superbug versions of salmonella and Campylobacter.

Not surprisingly, superbugs spawned by antibiotic misuse -- and now pervasive in the meat Americans buy -- have become a direct source of foodborne illness Even more ominously, antibiotic misuse threatens to make important antibiotics ineffective in treating human disease. Today, the chances are increasing that a person can suffer serious illness, complications or death because of a bacterial infection that doctors must struggle to control.


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READ: Report links antibiotics at farms to human deaths

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