This News Could Kill You: FDA & Antibiotics


Last August Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey. In September the same company recalled 185,000 pounds from the same plant. Both recalls came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found meat tainted with salmonella Heidelberg, a particularly nasty bacteria resistant to existing antibiotics.

In the waning days of 2011, the FDA delivered factory farms a generous gift: unregulated use of antibiotics. Any concerns CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operations) had that the FDA might curtail the unnecessary use of one of medicine’s essential remedies was quietly shoveled onto the manure pile.

Fortunately, Maryn McKenna was watching. The Wired blogger caught the FDA’s move on a source most people ignore: the Federal Register. Near the top of the official announcement, she found this:

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.\1\

There it is, in their own words. After 34 years of foot dragging, the FDA has quietly thrown up its hands and backed away from any pretense of heeding its own warnings about overuse of antibiotics.

Ignoring its own warnings

The “subtherapeutic” use of antibiotics is standard practice in factory farms, and it is understandable. Any time members of a species are crowded into spaces too small for normal life, illness takes up residence. Stress, inappropriate feed (such as grain for ruminants) and poor sanitation (no matter how often crowded pens are cleaned) make animals more susceptible. Disease lowers profits. Subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics are the livestock industry’s insurance policy. They make it possible to continue crowding animals together to meet the huge demand for meat.

On June 28, 2010, the FDA issued guidelines calling for the voluntary reduction of antibiotic use in livestock production. The report cited studies from as far back as 1969 that raised red flags about antibiotic use.

The meat industry responded with its usual invective, and the guidelines remained in draft form. Eighteen months later the FDA has backed away from even the moderate suggestions they made to industry. Although the agency insists it “remains concerned about the issue of antimicrobial resistance,” the FDA plans only “voluntary reform” for the foreseeable future.

New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter posted a response on her website, writing: “We need to get our head out of the sand and start taking public health advice from scientists rather than industry lobbyists.”

That won’t happen without public pressure. Sign the petition below to send a message to the FDA that overuse of antibiotics on factory farms must stop.


Related Care2 Stories

80 Percent of Antibiotics Used on Animals

Antibiotics Don’t Stand a Chance Against Superbugs

Drug-Resistant Salmonella in Ground Turkey


Photos from Thinkstock


Past Member
Susan P5 years ago

The FDA again. They cause more problem than good. People wonder why antibiotics are less effective now. The FDA stands in the way of people getting well with stem cell treatment. I have been fighting them for over two years but still they try to categorize stem cells as a drug. Even when the stem cells come from your own body. The cure is here and now. People travel from all over the country to see Stem Cell doctors. It works in curing so many suffering debilitating illness's. Of course the FDA doesn't want to see this. They are too involved with Pharmacutical companies. I have put up petitions to keep the FDA out of all stem cell treatment. They continue to file injunctions against Stem Cell doctors. People keep coming and bringing their children for the right to be well. I think it is time to put the FDA back on what they should be responsible for. Prescription drugs. And they don't do a very good job of that.

Julie R.
Julie R6 years ago

It sickens me the way these poor animals are made to live, this is just a money making scheme animals have all these hormones pumped into them to make them grow faster, the public have no idea what they are eating it is really getting out of hand, it needs to be stopped, I can remember when I was a child and the only time you could get a chicken was at Christmas now you can get a chicken anytime, it is the publics demand for meat that has made animals to have to live like this if the public could see the cruelty that goes on in slaughter house's maybe they would have second thoughts, shame on you meat eaters I hope you get yours.

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Hannah S.
Hannah Short6 years ago

I'm glade I'm vegan, and i am so upset at how those animals are being treated, and its bed enough they have to suffer but now their bodies are just being wasted, its sickening

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege6 years ago

Noted. I find the conditions in which hens and pigs are kept absolutely appalling. This is may be the reason why so many antibiotics need to be used. It wouldn't be a luxury to keep the cages a bit cleaner and in a better condition.

George Marshall
George Marshall6 years ago

Surprise. Surprise. The agency that is supposed to protect the people is being corrupted by corporations who need to ensure that their food products are safe - at any cost. If it was a good decision, the Government would have made it a big deal - instead they try to hide it in an obscure report.

Jutta N.
Past Member 6 years ago

Noted and signed, thank you for info
Taking antibiotics for any reason is unhealthy in any case

antonia maestre
antonia maestre6 years ago

"You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sandi C.
Sandi C6 years ago


Margaret Paddock
M A Paddock6 years ago

This is an example I sent to Senator John McCain. I thought perhaps some would like to use it.

Dear Senator: I just read: 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. Read more: Why is the FDA allowed to make such drastic changes without any oversight? This could pose a grave danger to many who will unknowingly consume these products.