Former FDA Commissioner: Agency needs to ‘finish the job’ to curb antibiotics in livestock

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You deserve safe, healthy food. Help us label GMOs and get antibiotics out of food animals.

By Consumers Union on Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Concern about the misuse of antibiotics in livestock production has been around so long it dates back to “Jimmy Carter’s day,” states former FDA Commissioner Donald Kennedy in an op-ed today in the Washington Post, and calls the agency out for stalling on the issue for the past 36 years.

“Today, the science is even clearer” than when he was Commissioner, says Kennedy, whose efforts in the 1970’s to curtail the use of penicillin and other antibiotics in livestock production were halted by Congress.   He points to hopeful new developments coming from today’s agency leaders that would start addressing the problem, including new guidelines that would transition the industry to end the use of antibiotics simply to make animals grow faster.

While those guidelines  “cannot come soon enough,”  Kennedy emphasizes that the agency must also go further, and rein in the overuse of antibiotics given to animals for preventative purposes:

Many animals are raised in conditions that pose a constant threat to their health — a symptom of a sick system. Agricultural businesses should be able to treat animals in ways that promote efficiency and profit, which includes giving the drugs to livestock that are actually infected. But the FDA should not allow extensive uses of antibiotics in confined animals for prophylactic protection; doing so threatens to undermine those same drugs that are critical to human medicine.

Says Kennedy:

It has been 36 years since the agency moved to restrict injudicious antibiotic practices that threatened the public’s health. It should not wait any longer to finish the job.

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