By Katy Keiffer
At the National Food Policy Conference in Washington DC in May 2012, a panel was convened to discuss the use of antibiotics in animal feed, a longstanding practice in industrial livestock production. For reasons that are still not clearly understood, the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in animal production spurs accelerated growth, a highly desirable outcome that saves on feed and husbandry costs. But going back as far as 1977, there have been concerns about this particular use of antibiotics and its impact on human health.
Cut to the 21st century, and lo and behold, a raft of antibiotic resistant strains of common bacteria in livestock production have emerged, to the great consternation and concern of the scientific and public health communities.
After literally years of pressure from groups such as Concerned Scientists in the Public Interest, National Resources Defense Council, and others, the FDA has finally come out with “voluntary” guidelines on antibiotic use in animal feed. These were explained at the conference by Bill Flynn, Deputy director for Science Policy at FDA center for Veterinary Medicine.
The focus of these voluntary guidelines is on antibiotics present in medicated feed and water used for growth promotion. Use in feed delivers antibiotics at lower doses and for longer durations, a practice which has more of an impact on growing disease-resistant microbes.
The FDA is seeking pharmaceutical industry compliance in phasing these medications out of animal feed, and implementing a requirement for veterinary oversight in the use of all drugs. Currently when farmers use medicated feed, its called “off-label” usage, and does not require a vet to write a prescription, or monitor levels. The FDA is giving the animal ag industry and the pharmaceutical industry three years to phase in these guidelines. Three years, people!
Flynn’s presentation was rebutted by Caroline de Waal, Director of Concerned Scientists in the Public Interest , who made the obvious points: (1) there are no requirements for the pharmaceutical industry to do their job in altering the drugs (currently the same ones we take) that they sell into veterinary medicines. (2) The industry will transition from using antibiotics as a growth promotant to using antibiotics for “prevention”, thus continuing the abuse of the drugs and a further reduction in their efficacy in treating human illness.
So much for voluntary guidelines. Contact your congressman or the FDA and let them know you want “sub-therapeutic” or “preventive” antibiotic use banned altogether.
Heritage Foods USA does not accept meat from animals treated sub-therapeutically with antibiotics.
Post originally appeared in Heritage Foods USA’s June 2012 Newsletter