U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced changes in farm use of antibiotics designed to safeguard the drugs for medical use. Shockingly, farmers administer more than 70% of the antibiotics used in the United States to improve health and promote the growth of livestock and poultry.Farm animals are often given a constant dose of antibiotics, added to their feed, in order to boost growth and prevent outbreaks of disease. Unfortunately, the practice raises the risk of microbes evolving resistance and eventually spreading to humans. FDA takes the first move to reduce the excessive use of antibiotics, by asking companies that produce drugs for animals to voluntarily change their labels. No longer should they advertise improved growth and feed efficiency from antibacterial drugs that FDA considers medically important to humans. This way these drug would be prescribed by a veterinarian, rather than be available to purchase freely. FDA wants to hear from companies within 3 months about their plans to change labels and will give them 3 years to put them in place.
The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) is skeptical that the voluntary action will be enough to protect public health, saying that “the guidelines will likely fail to change how these drugs are used in food animals.[…]If antibiotics are used in the same ways, they will have the same effects.” CLF wants FDA to eliminate all uses of antibiotics for disease prevention.
Christine Hoang, assistant director for scientific affairs at the American Veterinary Medical Association, says that such a ban could pose a “very serious problem for food safety.” If animals get sick, she says, disease can toughen their gastrointestinal tissue, which increases the chance of fecal contamination during slaughter, potentially adding to the spread of resistant microbes. Healthy animals are important for food safety, Hoang says.