Antibiotic Limits Planned for Farms

The Food and Drug Administration lays out a plan so that farmers will no longer use antibiotics to fatten up animals.  

By Kerry Grens | December 11, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, RYAN THOMPSON/US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTUREIn an effort to slow the problem of antibiotic resistance, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new rules for farmers. No longer will farmers be able to give animals antibiotics to make livestock or poultry grow bigger. And if an antibiotic is needed to treat a sick animal, farmers will have to get a prescription from a veterinarian.

“With these changes, there will be fewer approved uses, and the remaining uses will be under tighter control,” Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA, told CNN.

The plan hinges on pharmaceutical companies complying with a request to change the labeling on their products. Drugmakers are asked to remove language from the labeling of antibiotics touting their growth-promoting qualities, but are not required to do so. “Once manufacturers voluntarily make these changes, the affected products can then only be used in food-producing animals to treat, prevent, or control disease under the order of or by prescription from a licensed veterinarian,” according to the FDA.

Some, including the American Meat Institute and the Animal Health Institute, support the move. Clinton Lewis, Jr., the executive vice president and president of U.S. operations for Zoetis, the country’s largest animal pharmaceutical company, told POLITICO: “We agree with [FDA] that this is the fastest way to address their questions and concerns.”

But others are critical of the agency’s plan because it is a volunteer-based effort.

“The FDA’s voluntary guidance is an inadequate response to the overuse of antibiotics on the farm with no mechanism for enforcement and no metric for success,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), a microbiologist, said in a statement. But the FDA believes its approach will work. “Based on our outreach, we have every reason to believe that animal pharmaceutical companies will support us in this effort,” Taylor said in a statement.

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Avatar of: PastToTheFuture


Posts: 112

December 12, 2013

This is a huge public health issue (one of the very biggest) and while this is good progress, I agree that it should not be voluntary. Using antibiotics to fatten food animals is one of the most dangerous practices humans use and should be ended immediately.

Avatar of: Dr Edo

Dr Edo

Posts: 30

December 12, 2013

In the comment by PastToThe Future, an unstated issue is that the animal generated antibiotic resistant organisms can be passed to the human gut biota through the meat. To verify this, see various data on the NARMS website. Additionally, kitchen surfaces can be contaminated and reservoirs are thus established on home surfaces. Rusin and Gerba (unpublished), modeled this and soon the whole home was contaminated.That is one part of the puzzle when discussing the source of unstoppable infections. The next ingredient is called "top dressing" where sewage sludge, which is full of human pathogens and antibiotic resistant microbes, is sprayed onto pasture. The livestock are allowed to return and feed at 30 days. This then allows for the mixing of animal antibiotic resistant microbes with human pathogens, this while the animals feed on this top dressed fodder and pasturage. Since the animals will lie down while chewing their cud, the udders are contaminated with these resistant organisms. This also means that the milk may be at risk.  Thus, there are numerous avenues for allowing antibiotic resistant microbes to contaminate your food and your kitchen surfaces.

Once incorporated into the human gut biota, these resistant bacteria and genes can set up residence, thus, establishing tiny time bombs within. Once in the gut, these microbes may be able to communicate and exchange genetic information with the beneficial microbes of the human gut biota and set up lending libraries and carrier states. Through gene exchange, non-pathogens can be converted into pathogens in but a single step. Sjolund  (2005) looked at similar issues and noted that this genetic information is passed to and then amplified by the gut biota. Sjolund et al. further indicated that resistance in the normal flora, which once incorporated can last for years, might contribute to increased resistance in higher-grade pathogens through inter-species transfer. These authors go on to note that since populations of the normal biota are large, this affords the chance for multiple and different resistant variants to develop. This thus enhances the risk for spread to populations of pathogens. Furthermore, there is crossed resistance which can complicate treatment. For example, vancomycin resistance may be maintained by using macrolides. See: Sjolund, et al. in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2005, Sept.;11(9),1389 et seq.

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