The federal government is undoubtedly behind the curve when it comes to antibiotic overuse in American livestock. After all, nearly 100,000 people die each year as a result of antibiotic resistant infections acquired in hospitals. At the same time, government scientists ruled some 30 years ago that antibiotic overuse in animals contributed to drug resistant superbugs found in hospitals and the food system.
The FDA has been unforgivably slow to act and though it’s not clear why they lag behind, it is clear that agriculture is one of the biggest lobbying operations in DC and they are strongly opposed to any move to limit or ban the use of antibiotics in livestock. The FDA recently rejected a petition to ban certain antibiotics that are important for the preservation of human health.
Follow Your Own Rules
But it seems a New York judge has ruled that the issue is worth revisiting. Last week United States Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of New York Theodore H. Katz ordered the FDA to withdraw approval of two antibiotics used in animals, according to an Associated Press report. The FDA has 60 days to appeal the ruling.
The FDA issued an order in 1977 to ban non-medical use of penicillin and tetracycline in farm animals but the rule was never enforced because Big Ag pushed back in a huge way. But last week Judge Katz ordered they abide by their own ruling.
The most dangerous practice comes from the "sub-therapeutic" use of antibiotics, often administered to entire flocks or herds through feed or water and isn't directed toward a particular disease. It’s done without a veterinarian’s supervision for growth promotion and also to help animals survive filthy conditions. This continual use of low dose antibiotics creates a breeding ground for drug resistance, posing risks for humans and animals. The dangers are real and well known and yet the FDA must be pushed to protect overall human health.