FDA Wants to Limit Antibiotic Use

Earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration called on U.S. drug companies and farmers to reduce the use of antibiotics among farm animals, a practice, the organization says, that could contribute to major health crises in the United States.

Over the past year, a series of reports about the meat industry have shaken consumers’ trust, leading to increased scrutiny. One of the more shocking reports suggested that nearly one fourth of supermarket meat products contained drug-resistant, superbugs (bacteria that have developed resistances or immunities to commonly used antibiotics).

One of the reasons for the presence of these bacteria is the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. According to some reports, nearly 80 percent of antibiotics produced in the United States are used on farm animals, many of them healthy. Antibiotics like penicillin are routinely mixed into animal feed in order to help livestock put on weight and to prevent illness in crowded lots.

Many farmers maintain that these practices are necessary to maintain the health of their herds.

While the FDA suggestion would not have the force of law, the agency is hoping that drug companies will voluntarily restrict access to powerful antibiotics. The agency is recommending that drugs be used judiciously, and only to help keep animals healthy. To this end, they are urging drug companies to remove production uses (such as increased weight gain and accelerated growth) from labels and to require a veterinarian’s prescription to obtain drugs (which are currently available to farmers over the counter).

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer