The FDA announced today that it wants to take action to protect public health in regards to the use of antibiotics in food producing animals. The issue has been in the media recently with reports of farmers treating livestock with barrages of antimicrobial drugs for no compelling reason.
As with any antibiotic, the problem is that the bacteria slowly develop resistance, making the drugs less effective and even causing epidemics of superbugs. With this in mind, the FDA is proposing a voluntary system to start monitoring how these drugs are used on farm animals and to create guidelines for them only to be used strictly and when medically necessary. The FDA back up their actions with scientifically produced reports of the harmful effects of using antibiotics without due process or medical need.
The guidelines suggest that farmers stop using certain antibiotics solely for enhancing their yield or so called "production purposes" that mainly amount to maximizing profitability. The FDA wants farmers to restrict their use for medical reasons only and under supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. clarified the action :
"It is critical that we take action to protect public health ... The new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective. We are also reaching out to animal producers who operate on a smaller scale or in remote locations to help ensure the drugs they need to protect the health of their animals are still available."
The proposals are outlined in three separate documents released today in the Federal Register :
- A Final Guidance for Industry, The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals.The document recommends phasing out the agricultural production use of medically important drugs and phasing in veterinary oversight of therapeutic uses of these drugs.
- A Draft Guidance: Open for public comment, and is designed to assist drug companies in voluntarily removing production uses of antibiotics from their FDA-approved product labels; adding, where appropriate, scientifically-supported disease prevention, control, and treatment uses; and changing the marketing status to include veterinary oversight.
- A Draft Proposed Veterinary Feed Directive Regulation: Open for public comment, that outlines ways that veterinarians can authorize the use of certain animal drugs in feed, which is important to make the needed veterinary oversight feasible and efficient.
"USDA worked with the FDA to ensure that the voices of livestock producers across the country were taken into account ... and we will continue to collaborate with the FDA, the American Veterinary Medical Association and livestock groups to ensure that the appropriate services are available to help make this transition."
Written by Rupert Shepherd