Did the FDA Get It Right Limiting the Use of Some Antibiotics in Livestock?

by on November 11th, 2010
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COMMENTARY | The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on January 4, 2012, that a restriction on the use of some first line antibiotics in livestock would go into effect on April 5, 2012. They offered that they were “taking this action to preserve the effectiveness of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans”. Cephalosporin antimicrobial drugs are a first line defense in treating such diseases as, pneumonia, soft tissue infections, urinary tract infections and pelvic infections. The restrictions will be in effect for cattle, swine, chickens, and turkeys. Unlike the ban the FDA issued and revoked in 2008, this will not be a total ban on antibiotic usage, but rather restricts usage to necessity and not preventative care.

Many applaud the efforts by the FDA. One such person is Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, a Democrat from New York and a microbiologist. “”Every year, 100,000 Americans die from bacterial infections,” Slaughter released on her website. She continues by saying, “Seventy percent of these infections are resistant to drugs commonly used to treat them.” The American Medical Association agrees and states, “Physicians must be able to rely on proven, safe and effective medications to provide optimal care to their patients.” Their website continues by offering that the overuse of antibiotics can cause resistance in humans to the very drugs meant to save them.

The agricultural community does not necessarily agree with the FDA’s restrictions. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s website states, “A top priority for all cattle producers is the health and well-being of their animals.” They continue to say that antibiotic resistance is a “very complex” issue and the “NCBA carefully monitors all international, science-based and peer reviewed research on this issue to ensure our policies and guidelines are consistent with the current knowledge.” The association contends that the current laws that restrict the amount of antibiotic in beef are substantial and sufficient enough to protect the safety of our food supply.

The debate on the use of antibiotics in livestock will continue long beyond April 5, when the new regulations go into effect. Both sides of this controversy have the same end result in their hearts, I believe, the safety of our food supply. However, beyond that we must ensure that humans do not increasingly become immune to the antibiotics that can save our lives. Until further data can be gathered and analyzed on both sides of the issue, the FDA has done their job and interceded with restrictions that meet a partial compromise to protect our safety.

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