FDA Ordered To Study Antibiotics In Animals

A Manhattan federal court has ordered the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to study antibiotic use in animals, citing a decades-old proposal banning the use of some antibiotics in animal feed.

We routinely discuss the dangers of antibiotic misuse and overuse, and how these practices are directly linked to antibiotic resistant diseases that can wreak havoc on the body, as well as the links between treating farm animals with low antibiotic doses and wide-spread drug resistance. For instance, the historically massive 2011 recall—involving 36 million pounds of tainted ground turkey resulted in 111 reported salmonella illnesses, and one death. That outbreak involved a bacterium resistant to at least four antibiotics typically used in turkey production. Not surprising given that antibiotics are often given to food animals to quicken growth and compensate for unsanitary, overcrowded conditions.

The Washington Post said the federal court ordered the agency to follow through on a 35-year-old proposal to ban certain antibiotics in animal feed over overuse and drug resistance problems. The prevalence of antibiotic use in livestock was cited in several studies and linked to the creation of so-call “superbugs,” drug resistant infection strains, that can spread to animal workers and people who consume treated animals.

In 1977, the FDA proposed a ban on the use of penicillin and two forms of tetracycline—chlortetracycline and oxytetracycline—for growth promotion in animals; however, following the proposal, no action was taken and no hearings were held, said The Post. The FDA “quietly rescinded” the plan to withdraw approval for penicillin and the two tetracyclines in December 2011, saying the proposal was outdated, said The Post.

In response, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and four health and consumer advocacy groups sued the government May 2011. Yesterday, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and has compelled the agency to move forward with its 1977 plan to initiate proceedings to work toward withdrawal of the antibiotics, said The Post.

“The scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown, and there is no evidence that the FDA has changed its position that such uses are not shown to be safe,” Judge Theodore H. Katz wrote. The FDA will have to allow drug makers the opportunity to appear at a hearing and prove their medications are safe. “If, at the hearing, the drug sponsors fail to show that the use of the drugs is safe, the [FDA] Commissioner must issue a withdrawal order,” Judge Katz wrote, said The Post.

We’ve explained that about 70% of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used in farms to increase animal growth and offset filthy living conditions. Because livestock is treated with very low doses of the potent drugs, diseases are not being treated, but bacteria are encouraged to remain, growing more and more resistant. This practice has enabled, and continues to enable, bacteria to outsmart antibiotics and to survive, thrive, and strengthen so that existing drugs are powerless against their eradication.

Meanwhile, in 2010, the FDA issued voluntary guidelines calling for the sensible use of antibiotics; however, that plan has not been finalized, said The Post. We also wrote that the FDA issued a ban on the use of a specific antibiotic class of drugs in livestock, which included certain uses of the cephalosporin class of antimicrobials in cattle, swine, chickens, and turkeys, effective April 5, 2012. That action was meant to preserve the efficacy of cephalosporin drugs for human disease while prohibiting its other uses so that cephalosporin resistance in certain pathogens would be is reduced.

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