Group sues FDA to limit use of antibiotics in animal agriculture

June 8, 2011

According to The Hill, on May 25, a coalition of consumer groups sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to force it to curtail use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. The use of drugs to promote animal growth and prevent illnesses in poultry and livestock kept in crowded conditions is causing concerns about drug-resistant strains. The agriculture and drug lobbies say those concerns are overblown.

The suit says the FDA acknowledged as far back in 1977 that feeding animals low doses of penicillin and tetracyclines could promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria capable of infecting people. The agency hasn't banned the practice, but it did put out non-binding draft guidance in 2010 that suggested limiting the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals only when needed to assure the animals' health.

The lawsuit demands the agency withdraw approval for most non-therapeutic uses of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed and respond to citizen petitions dating back to 1999 and 2005. The other plaintiffs are the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Separately, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) has introduced legislation to phase out the non-therapeutic use of specific classes of antibiotics in food-producing animals, while permitting their continued therapeutic use in sick animals. In a recent ePerspective post, Doug Wolf, President of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), argues that there's no science behind her claims that antibiotic use in food-animal production is causing antibiotic resistance in people. The U.S. pork industry believes that more research is needed on the causes of antibiotic resistance before any antibiotics are banned or restricted from use in food-animal production. Indeed, the risk of not using antibiotics may outweigh any risk of using them. Wolf believes that taking away important animal health products, as Slaughter's bill proposes, would be bad for animals, bad for farmers, and bad for consumers. What are your thoughts on the issue? Do the benefits of animal antibiotics outweigh any potential risks? Share your opinions at IFT's ePerspective.

The Hill article

Wolf's ePerspective

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