December 22, 2014

Groups Call on FDA to Stop Misuse of Antibiotics in Farm Animals

On July 17, 2012, the groups Food and Water Watch, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and others, under the umbrella of Healthy Food Action, sent a letter to the FDA. They asked that agency to not appeal the June decision by a federal district court ordering them to withdraw its approvals for non therapeutic uses of antibiotics in food animals.

Public health organizations and environmental groups petitioned the FDA to “rescind approvals for subtherapeutic uses in livestock of any antibiotic used in human medicine” in 1999. In November 2011, the FDA denied this action. Then in June 2012, Judge Theodore Katz ruled that the FDA must rescind drug approval and that the agency did not follow the statutory mandate of withdrawal proceedings.

The FDA appealed an earlier decision in March 2012, ordering the agency to withdraw feed approvals of penicillin and tetracyclines unless drug manufacturers could show they were safe. The June decision covered more “medically important” antibiotics, such as sulfas, macrolides, and streptogramins.

The letter states that “FDA delays on this critically important health issue date back three and a half decades. With 29 million pounds of animal antibiotics sold every year, and the fact that overall use is an important driver of antibiotic resistance, the public health crisis has continued to worsen. We are on the cusp of a post-antibiotic era, where bacterial infections once easily cured will no longer respond to the antibiotics at hand.”

Many of the same groups and others, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the March of Dimes, commented on the FDA’s draft guidance on July 12, 2012, saying “there is a definitive link between the routine, non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in industrial farms and the crisis of antibiotic resistance in humans. Yet almost no action has been taken by the United States.” That letter also called on the FDA to comply with the court’s orders.

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