June 23, 2018

FDA Publishes Report on Antibiotics Used in Farm Animals

The FDA has published its annual summary report on antimicrobials sold or distributed in 2012 for use in food-producing animals. Antibiotic drug sponsors are required to report yearly to the FDA the drugs they sell or distribute for use in farm animals.

pigs-arsTrends from the report are: the total quantity of medically important antimicrobials sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals increased by 16% from 2009 to 2012. But the percentage of domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for production use decreased from 72% to 68%. And the percentage of domestic sales of antimicrobials used in animals that are medically important to humans decreased from 98% to 97%.

The sales and distribution data does not represent how the drugs are actually used. The data are not broken out by species.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said it was good that the FDA is increasing the data used in this area, but remains worried about the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in agriculture. “We now have a more complete picture of how the agriculture industry uses antibiotics,” she said in a statement. “As we feared, the data who that we have a lot of work to do to ensure antibiotics are used responsibly. I hope to continue to work with the agriculture industry and FDA to ensure that the use of medically important antibiotics in agriculture decreases under new judicious use policies.”

The coalition Keep Antibiotics Working said that the report was long-overdue. Dr. David Wallinga, director of the organization Healthy Food Action and a member of the Keep Antibiotics Working steering committee said, “while we’re pleased FDA finally released these 2012 data, providing more detail than ever before, the overall trends are alarming: Antibiotic use in food animals continues to rise every year, and use of some of the most important human drugs is going up the fastest. Year on year, the amount of medically important antibiotics used in food animal production keeps rising (up 16% since 2009). Antibiotic use in U.S. livestock is huge and continues to escalate, even while many leading meat exporting countries have halved their livestock usage.”

Guidance 213, published in December 2013 by the FDA, asks but does not require drug producers to remove product label indications for growth promotion. But farmers are still allowed to use these drugs for disease prevention. Food safety experts are opposed to this use because it contributes to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

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