FDA seeks less use of antibiotics in animals to keep them effective for humans
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 2010; A04
The Food and Drug Administration urged farmers on Monday to stop giving antibiotics to cattle, poultry, hogs and other animals to spur their growth, citing concern that drug overuse is helping to create dangerous bacteria that do not respond to medical treatment and endanger human lives.
Joshua M. Sharfstein, the FDA's principal deputy commissioner, said antibiotics should be used only to protect the health of an animal and not to help it grow or improve the way it digests its feed.
"This is an urgent public health issue," Sharfstein said during a conference call with reporters. "To preserve the effectiveness [of antibiotics], we simply must use them as judiciously as possible."
The FDA issued a draft of its guidance, and the public has 60 days to comment on the draft.
Sharfstein said that the guidance was a first step, and the agency would issue new regulations if the industry does not comply voluntarily.
"We have the regulatory mechanisms, and industry knows that," he said. "We also think things can be done voluntarily. We're not handcuffed to the steering wheel of a particular strategy, but I'm not ruling out anything that we can do to establish these important public-health goals."
Human health is certainly a top priority but one of the things that has helped us avoid any large health disasters is the fact that we have kept our livestock very healthy as well. Along with that, there isn’t any good scientific data to suggest that this will make a difference. After all, livestock producers would have to treat disease after the fact rather than prevent it. The last thing to consider is the fact that until human usage is of antibiotics is better controlled any changes to livestock use would be pointless. The very same drugs that require a prescription here can be bought over the counter in other countries. We definitely need to protect the efficacy of antibiotics but only focusing on livestock use is a lazy solution to a difficult problem.