The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking its biggest step yet to rein in the indiscriminate use of antibiotics that help food animals grow bigger, faster. The agency said Wednesday it is asking veterinary drug makers to voluntarily phase out medically important drugs from being available over the counter in the hope that the shift will help combat growing antimicrobial resistance.
Under FDA’s proposal, these antimicrobials will still be allowed in animal agriculture but, if veterinary drug companies agree to change the labels, farmers will be allowed to use the drugs only to prevent, control, or treat diseases and under the supervision of a veterinarian and not for promoting growth or improving feed efficiency.
The agency said it was taking the voluntary action to “preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans.” Read more
A bipartisan group of senators re-introduced a bill late last week aimed at preserving the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics by limiting their use in food animal feed. In the face of the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, public health experts and activists have pushed for regulation to limit the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
Recent estimates indicate around 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to food animals.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the primary sponsor of The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, otherwise known as PAMTA, reintroduced the measure to address “the rampant overuse of antibiotics in agriculture that creates drug-resistant bacteria, an increasing threat to human beings.” Read more
It is time for some straight talk about the risks of using massive amounts of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. I don’t know one infectious disease expert who would disagree that there are direct links between antibiotic use in food animals and antibiotic resistance in people. Period. If you don’t believe me just ask Rear Admiral Ali Kahn, Assistant Surgeon General and Acting Deputy Director for the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease. Just this summer, during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dr. Kahn testified that, “there is unequivocal evidence and relationship between [the] use of antibiotics in animals and [the] transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria causing adverse effects in humans.”
Knowing this, I continue to be frustrated with the fact that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack does not publicly recognize that the industrial food animal production system is a leading contributor to the increase of antibiotic resistance in pathogens that infect people and animals. Earlier this month at a National Cattlemen’s Beef Association meeting, Vilsack responded to a question about the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) by saying the, “USDA’s public position is, and always has been, that antibiotics need to be used judiciously, and we believe they already are.” Read more
Leadership at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made it abundantly clear last week that the low-dose usage of antibiotics in food animals, simply to promote growth or improve feed efficiency, needlessly contributes to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria and poses a serious threat to public health. Despite the fact that the FDA is taking a hard-line stance on the issue, I find it frustrating to see that the agency appears to be hamstrung from taking the necessary steps to mandate industry to end the risky practice. Read more
Katie Couric’s special report on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture aired in two parts this week, exposing the intransigence of the industry. Read more
Last Sunday, investigative reporter for the New York Times Michael Moss took a hard look at a hamburger contaminated with e. coli, following the elaborate path it took from multiple cows and slaughterhouses and through various processes to one of the victim’s plates, a 22-year old dance instructor, now paralyzed, named Stephanie Smith. The piece was a shocker because it showed just how unaccountable these companies have become in the face of an often powerless and conflicted USDA. The piece is still on the most-emailed list of the NYT website as of this writing, it pushed Tyson into a deal with Costco over testing, and it is even being discussed in Washington, according to a follow-up piece featured today by Moss. Read more
Chalk one up for public health advocates fighting to keep antibiotics an effective treatment for fighting disease in people: On Monday, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, revealed that the Obama Administration, “supports ending the use of antibiotics for growth and feed efficiency” in food animals. Dr. Sharfstein made the statement during a House Rules Committee, which was called by the committee chair, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D, NY), to discuss her proposed Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. (PAMTA) Read more