US issues rules for removing antibiotics from farms (Update)

by Kerry Sheridan

In response to concerns about the rise in drug-resistant superbugs worldwide, US regulators Wednesday issued voluntary guidelines to help cut back on antibiotics routinely fed to farm animals.

The plan described by the Food and Drug Administration is not mandatory, and applies only to certain pharmaceuticals that are given to healthy livestock in a bid to grow bigger animals and boost food production.

"We need to be selective about the drugs we use in animals and when we use them," said William Flynn, deputy director for science policy at the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

"Antimicrobial resistance may not be completely preventable, but we need to do what we can to slow it down."

The FDA guidelines set out a three-year timeframe for phasing out the use of antibiotics that are important in human medicine for growth uses in farm animals.

Companies that make animal feed containing antibiotics would be restricted to marketing them only for sick animals.

The medicines would also have to be administered or prescribed by a veterinarian with a view to preventing or controlling disease.

The World Health Organization says inappropriate use of antimicrobial medicines in farm animals is one the factors underlying the spread of drug-resistant infections in people, including tuberculosis, malaria and gonorrhea.

Other factors include people's failure to complete the full doses of antibiotics when sick and the lack of a coordinated global response to dangerous illnesses.

Consumer advocates say 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are destined for use in livestock, so leaving the responsibility in the hands of business is a mistake.

Louise Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress, described the FDA's voluntary guidance as "an inadequate response to the overuse of antibiotics on the farm with no mechanism for enforcement and no metric for success."

This guidance "falls woefully short of what is needed to address a public health crisis," she added in a statement.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said there are "several loopholes" in the FDA plan that could undermine its aim.

"Unfortunately it requires the drug companies who profit from sales of their drugs to initiate the process," said CSPI food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal.

"The good news is that the agency has pledged to evaluate levels of compliance and inform the public after 90 days if the drug industry is cooperating with the relabeling effort."

Industry representatives, including the Animal Health Institute, said they would comply with the FDA plan.

"We strongly support responsible use of antibiotic medicines and the involvement of a veterinarian whenever antibiotics are administered to food producing animals," the AHI said in a statement.

"Animal health companies have supported this policy since it was announced in 2012 and will continue to work with FDA on its implementation."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

FDA wants limits on antibiotics given to animals

Apr 11, 2012

(AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration called on drug companies Wednesday to help limit the use of antibiotics given to farm animals, a decades-old practice that scientists say has contributed to a surge in dangerous, ...

FDA enlists companies to head off drug shortages

Oct 31, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration is announcing a new proposal designed to head off more shortages of crucial medications that have disrupted care at hospitals and health clinics nationwide.

Groups sue US over antibiotics in farm feed

May 25, 2011

A coalition of consumer groups filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the US Food and Drug Administration over the use of human antibiotics in animal feed, saying it creates dangerous superbugs.

FDA limits some antibiotics in livestock

Jan 04, 2012

(AP) -- The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday ordered farmers to limit the use of a type of antibiotics they give livestock because it could make people more resistant to a key antibiotic that can save lives, encouraging ...

Recommended for you

Have a cold? Don't ask your doctor for antibiotics

3 minutes ago

Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health. Resistance makes it harder for physicians to treat infections and can increase the chance patients will die from an infection. What is more, the treatment ...

Powdered measles vaccine found safe in early clinical trials

23 hours ago

A measles vaccine made of fine dry powder and delivered with a puff of air triggered no adverse side effects in early human testing and it is likely effective, according to a paper to be published November 28 in the journal ...

Health care M&A leads global deal surge

Nov 23, 2014

In a big year for deal making, the health care industry is a standout. Large drugmakers are buying and selling businesses to control costs and deploy surplus cash. A rising stock market, tax strategies and ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.