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On December 22, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quietly posted a notice in the Federal Register that it was effectively reneging on its plan to reduce the use of antibiotics in agricultural animal feed a plan it has been touting since 1977.
Now, with virtually no public announcement, the FDA has decided it will continue to allow livestock producers to use the drugs in feed, unabated; a move that is threatening food safety by contributing to the spread of new, antibiotic-resistant “super-germs.”
FDA Reverses its 30-Year-Old Promise to Get Antibiotics Out of Animal Feed
According to the Federal Register, dated December 22, 2011:
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or the Agency) is withdrawing two 1977 notices of opportunity for a hearing (NOOH), which proposed to withdraw certain approved uses of penicillin and tetracyclines intended for use in feeds for food-producing animals based in part on microbial food safety concerns.”
For those who aren’t aware, about 80 percent of all the antibiotics produced are used in agriculture — not only to fight infection, but to promote unhealthy (though profitable) weight gain.
As stated by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs:
“Continuous, low-dose administration of an antibiotic can increase the rate and efficiency of weight gain in healthy livestock. The presence of antibiotics likely changes the composition of the gut flora to favor growth. Debate is ongoing as to how gut flora are changed; change may simply be a reduction in numbers, a change in species composition or a combination of the two. Some antibiotics may also enhance feed consumption and growth by stimulating metabolic processes within the animal.”
Unfortunately, this practice is also contributing to the alarming spread of antibiotic-resistant disease a serious problem that the FDA acknowledged in a 2010 draft guidance, which also proposed that livestock producers STOP using “subtherapeutic,” small doses of antibiotics in animal feed:
“Antimicrobial drugs have been widely used in human and veterinary medicine for more than 50 years The development of resistance to this important class of drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness as antimicrobial therapies, poses a serious public health threat.
Misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs creates selective evolutionary pressure that enables antimicrobial resistant bacteria to increase in numbers more rapidly than antimicrobial susceptible bacteria and thus increases the opportunity for individuals to become infected by resistant bacteria. Because antimicrobial drug use contributes to the emergence of drug resistant organisms, these important drugs must be used judiciously in both animal and human medicine to slow the development of resistance.”