FDA to Address Agricultural Antibiotic Use

In recent weeks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration signaled a major change to its policies on the use of antibiotics on U.S. farm animals.

Currently, humans consume only about 20 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States. The vast majority of drugs are used on livestock. Since the 1950s, American farmers have added various antibiotics, including penicillin and tetracycline, to livestock feed. Farmers insist that the drugs serve to protect livestock herds from infectious diseases and have a legitimate preventative use.

Opponents, however, argue that widespread antibiotic use is done to increase and speed up livestock growth.

Health officials are concerned that widespread use of antibiotics is leading to the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. Recent FDA reports have indicated that a significant amount of meat sold in American supermarkets contains drug-resistant bacteria.

Recent action by the FDA gives some health officials hope that the agency is prepared to issue major regulatory changes to the use of antibiotics on farms.

In December, the agency dropped stalled plans to ban the use of penicillin and tetracycline on healthy animals, a move that some say is laying the groundwork for a broader antibiotic ban. In addition, earlier this week, the FDA banned the preventative use of antibiotics used to treat human infections.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer