The practice of using antibiotics in farm animals has been debated for decades now. Farms will often put antimicrobials into the feed or water of animals bound for the dinner table to enable faster growth using less feed. Critics have argued that these antibiotics could have a dangerous effect on humans who eat the animals, and the U.S. government is now getting involved.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced a plan to phase out the use of “medically important” antimicrobial drugs in food animals. The plan would end the use of such drugs for animal food production and tightly control them for veterinary uses.
Specifically, the FDA’s plan calls for animal pharmaceutical companies to revise the use conditions of their products on product labels. In addition, the FDA would like to end the over-the-counter status of such drugs, meaning veterinarian approval would be needed for disease treatment with the drugs. The FDA is calling for pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily implement these changes, and is giving companies three years to transition their products to comply.
“Implementing this strategy is an important step forward in addressing antimicrobial resistance,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine at the FDA. “The FDA is leveraging the cooperation of the pharmaceutical industry to voluntarily make these changes because we believe this approach is the fastest way to achieve our goal. Based on our outreach, we have every reason to believe that animal pharmaceutical companies will support us in this effort.”
The medically important drugs targeted by the plan are those also used to treat humans. Researchers in recent years have seen a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The phenomenon is caused primarily by the overuse of antibiotics, which creates pressure for resistant bacteria to evolve and thrive. The CDC estimated this year that at least 23,000 American each year die from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.