FDA Backtracks On Anti-Antibiotics Pledge - All While Public Is Distracted By Holidays

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Making the Twitter rounds this morning thanks to @MichaelPollan is the news that the FDA has backtracked on a pledge to withdraw its approval of putting penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feeds; and apparently didn't want to make a big deal of the reneging, not announcing the move, just publishing it in the Federal Register right before Christmas holiday—when no one in the public and few in the news media are paying attention to much of anything other than the holiday itself.

Food Safety News quotes Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug:

There is a lot of background on this, but here is the takeaway: For 34 years, the FDA has been contending that administering small doses of antibiotics to healthy animals is an inappropriate use of increasingly scarce drugs—a positon in which it is supported by organizations as mainstream as the American Medical Association. With this withdrawal, it backs away from the actions it took to support that assertion—which may indicate there will be no further government action on the issue until after the 2012 election.

As for the context of overuse of antibiotics by BigAg in the US, a year to this date Center for a Livable Future publicized an analysis of the situation showing that 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US are administered to farm animals, an increase from 70% in the prior decade.

The reason for that is largely because of the dank, unhealthy and inhumane conditions in which we raise animals in the US for meat and dairy as matter of course. To keep animals alive in such conditions as are normal in concentrated animal feeding operations (aka factory farms) they have to be routinely medicated.

For the human connection, if the welfare of the animals isn't enough convincing, overuse of antibiotics in farm animals has been linked to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.

For the political connection, Mark Bittman nails it:

The FDA has no money to spare, but the corporations that control the food industry have all they need, along with the political power it buys. That's why we can say this without equivocation: Public health, the quality of our food, and animal welfare are all sacrificed to the profits that can be made by raising animals in factories. Plying "health" farm animals...with antibiotics—a practice the EU banned in 2006—is as much a part of the American food system as childhood obesity and commodity corn. Animals move from farm to refrigerator case in record time; banning prophylactic drugs would slow this process down, and with it the meat industry's rate of profit. Lawmakers beholden to corporate money are not about to let that happen, at least not without a fight.

Therefore, another green connection to Occupy Wall Street...

Tags: Agriculture