The FDA Is Adding Big New Restrictions on Livestock Antibiotic Use

When you think about antibiotics, you probably think of positive, healthy outcomes. Alas, that’s often the case – farmers regularly feed antibiotics to their livestock, which in turn is causing a health epidemic of its own.

Though this unnecessary drugging of animals has gone relatively unchecked in the United States for years, the FDA finally announced a pair of significant policy changes that demonstrate that our government is starting to take these problems more seriously.

Change #1: Banning Use of Antibiotics Used to Treat Humans for Growth Purposes

Farmers have found that feeding antibiotics to their animals is a successful way of getting them to grow bigger, which results in more meat to sell. The problem is that a lot of these same antibiotics are critical for treating infections in humans and they don’t work so effectively when they’ve already entered the food chain.

To keep antibiotics working properly, the FDA will put a ban on animals taking antibiotics for trivial uses like making animals grow bigger when they can also benefit humans in a more meaningful way.

When animals do need treatment from antibiotics that are also prescribed to human beings, farmers are required to get a veterinarian prescription to administer these drugs. This rule has a couple of effects: First, it puts a doctor in charge to ensure some accountability in when the drugs are used. Second, since vet bills can be expensive, it could discourage farmers from going this route unless medically necessary.

Change #2: Labeling Drugs

The other part of the plan is to compel antibiotic companies to label their products for animal more effectively. If a drug has primary value to humans, it will be marked as such, cautioning purchasers that it cannot be used on livestock for growth purposes. These warnings should help to prevent farmers from simply pleading ignorant to the new FDA regulations.

Why Are These Changes Necessary?

This policy news is important because of just how prevalent antibiotic use is in the agriculture industry. Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used on farm animals, often for inessential reasons.

Beyond helping to boost the size of livestock, farmers like to use antibiotics to prevent animals from getting sick in the first place. Farmers have found that by feeding their animals drugs, the animals have a better shot at surviving in worse conditions, which obviously makes their businesses more profitable.

As a long-term strategy, though, it’s a terrible idea. When animals are treated with these drugs, especially on a regular basis, their bodies develop antibiotic resistant forms of bacteria. This powerful bacteria then enters the food chain, making everyone susceptible.

You don’t even need to eat meat to be susceptible to these problems. Since animal manure is used to grow crops, we consume vegetables that also have this resistant bacteria. There’s no escaping the fallout from animals being fed antibiotics.

As it stands, globally, 700,000 people die each year from infections that are unaffected by antibiotics. Experts believe the number of deaths could be as high as 10 million in another 35 years. The FDA’s move might not yet solve the problems we’re facing, but it’s a step in the right direction to at least start mitigating some of the consequences the agriculture industry is creating.

Photo credit: Unsplash


Marie W
Marie W11 months ago

Thanks for posting.

Leong S
Leong Sabout a year ago


Chen Boon Fook
Chen Boon Fookabout a year ago


Misss D
Misss Dabout a year ago

A good book which sets out all the problems with factory farming, including sub therapeutic use of anti-biotics on farm animals and how the resistant bacteria is transferred to people, is 'Animal Factory' by David Kirby.

Chen Boon Fook
Chen Boon Fookabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padillaabout a year ago

What about animal abuse? Is that so hard?.....

Rosslyn O
Rosslyn Oabout a year ago

This is truly shutting the gate after the horses have bolted! Idiots should have done this 50 years ago!!

Siyus C
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ann B
Ann Babout a year ago

this should have been done YEARS AGO!!!!!!

Olga T
Olga Troyanabout a year ago

It's high time.