Tell FDA to Ban Unnecessary Antibiotic Use in Food-Producing Animals

In human medicine, antibiotic use is generally confined to treatment of illness. Yet, on many industrial livestock farms in the U.S., antibiotics and other antimicrobials (drugs that kill microorganisms like bacteria) are routinely administered to healthy animals. In fact, 80 percent of all antibiotics produced in the U.S. are given to animals, not humans. One result of this unregulated overuse has been a significant increase in antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” which can dangerously jeopardize the use and effectiveness of medically important antibiotics for humans.

Antibiotics are essential tools in both human and animal medicine, but mounting evidence has linked persistent use of these drugs in animal production to the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant organisms. To preserve medically important antibiotics for treatment of disease in people, current practices must be radically changed.

Urge FDA to immediately ban all use of medically important human antibiotics in food-producing animals for growth promotion or disease prevention.

I am writing to urge FDA to take stronger action on antibiotic use in animal production by banning the use of medically important human antibiotics in food-producing animals for growth promotion or disease prevention.

The declining effectiveness of antibiotics has become a major national public health crisis. According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 99,000 people died of hospital-acquired infections in 2002, the most recent year for which data is available. According to the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the vast majority of those infections were caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“Superbugs”—bacteria resistant to one or more antibiotics—are also showing up in food and causing illness such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and even death. Doctors and scientists have called for much more careful use of antibiotics so that disease-causing organisms don’t become immune to them.

The major user of antibiotics in the U.S. today is not the medical profession. It’s the meat and poultry business. Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used not on people, but on animals. Antibiotics are given to food-producing animals for three reasons:

1. Make them grow faster
2. Prevent diseases in crowded, unsanitary and inhumane animal factories
3. Treat illnesses in individual sick animals

Therapeutic treatment of individual sick animals should only be allowed on a limited basis with veterinary prescriptions—not routinely on a herd-wide or flock-wide basis to prevent sicknesses endemic to large-scale industrial animal production facilities.

To preserve medically important antibiotics for treatment of disease in people, currently accepted practices must be radically changed. While the draft Guidance #213 is a first step, voluntary guidelines with little transparency will not adequately address this threat.
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