July 17, 2024

FDA Appeals Ruling to Ban Antibiotics in Animal Feed

On May 21, 2012, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, Director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine Bernadette Dunham, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius filed an appeal with the Second Circuit Court of appeals. They want to overturn Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz’s ruling that forced the FDA to ban antibiotics in animal feed. The Judge found that the FDA must resume proceedings to withdraw approval for three antibiotics in animal feed that the agency halted in 1977.

FDAIn December 2011, the FDA announced that it would not withdraw the antibiotics penicillin and tetracycline from animal feed, even though in 1977, the government said that there is a potential human health threat of widespread antibiotic use in livestock: development of bacteria who become resistant to antibiotics.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2011 by nonprofit consumer groups, including the National Resources Defense Council, in response to the FDA’s 35-year lack of action on this topic.

In March 2012, Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization said that antibiotic resistance could “end modern medicine as we know it.” A study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) found that the antibiotic-resistant bacteria MRSA most likely developed that resistance in animals raised for food.

Then, in April 2012, the FDA announced voluntary guidance to restrict antibiotic use in farm animals, a move that was widely disparaged by environmental and animal rights groups.

Food Poisoning Bulletin attended a webinar sponsored by STOP Foodborne Illness that same month. In that discussion, Tyler Smith, Senior Research and Policy Assistant at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) said that animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are given antibiotics to prevent disease, and that “guidance documents” are non-binding recommendations to try to persuade industry to change their methods.

We asked Smith about this move. He said, “the FDA’s decision to appeal is disappointing.  The agency has said repeatedly that many current uses of penicillin and tetracycline are no longer safe.  Now FDA is doing everything it can to do nothing at all.  Rather than appeal, FDA should move forward on withdrawing approvals for non-therapeutic use of these and other antibiotics.”


  1. While the FDA isn’t a very good guardian of public health and safety, they’re correct on this one. Sort of. The fear of antibiotic resistance in bacteria spreading to humans is mere pseudoscience paranoia. They could easily squelch any small potential for a problem by doing what they should have done years ago: Require that all food be irradiated. But even that won’t stop half educated half wits from coming up with half truths to scare themselves and the ignorant with.

    • Linda Larsen says

      Not according to the World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins School for Public Health, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Translocational Genomics Research Institute, Emerging Infectious Diseases, the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the National Resources Defense Council. Those institutions are quoted as saying antibiotic resistance in bacteria is most certainly caused by sub therapeutic doses of antibiotics in animal feed in the many articles we have written on this topic.

      And insulting people does not help your cause.

      • First, I didn’t insult anyone, so back off the personal attacks. Second, I don’t care what kind of authoritarian claims that organizations make. They are only half way basing it on science. The rest, they’re just making up. It’s science fiction. Many of those organizations make all kinds of bogus claims all the time. ESPECIALLY the Center for Science in the Public Interest. ANY time that they say something, you can bet that the opposite is true.

        Antibiotic resistance in bacteria is what I researched in grad school. I know far more about it than most of those people. It’s not a permanent light switch that just flips on. It’s not evolution. Once the selection pressure is removed, the resistance goes away quickly. If there were ANY risk, we would have seen it by now.

        This is all just a bunch of political nonsense and pseudoscience panicking. There is FAR more risk to quitting the antibiotic prophylaxis than to continuing it.

        • Linda Larsen says

          Oh really. Saying “half educated half wits from coming up with half truths to scare themselves and the ignorant with” isn’t an insult and personal attack?? That is WAY over the line. And I trust the organizations I listed far more than one grad student.

        • You thought what LINDA said was a personal attack? That would be funny if it wasn’t so pitiful. You sound very angry for some strange reason. Perhaps because all of the authoritative organizations don’t agree with YOU?

  2. FDA goes against known science, yet stands by it when it serves the corporate aim. Government at odds with its own regulating arm. Is anyone convinced now that the FDA is almost entirely supported by the corporate industries it supposedly regulates.

    • Linda Larsen says

      I’m very disappointed in the FDA decision. This is an issue they have known about for at least 35 years. They should ban those antibiotics immediately.

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