Gannett News Service
June 4, 2015
Copyright 2015 Gannett Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said farmers and ranchers will need veterinarian approval to prescribe antibiotics for animals that could later enter the food supply, the latest step by the White House to fight bacteria that are growing resistant to these powerful medicines also given to humans.
In a new rule released Tuesday, the Obama administration issued guidelines to help ensure veterinarians are responsibly prescribing antibiotics in cattle, hogs, poultry and other livestock, at the right dose, and only when they are necessary for legitimate health reasons. As part of the FDA plan, farmers and ranchers will be restricted from using antibiotics deemed medically important to humans for growth production purposes in their livestock. The medicines will only be used to prevent, control or treat an illness.
The rule is scheduled to go into effect in December 2016.
"A goal of the work that FDA has underway in this guidance is to remove the growth promotion uses of antibiotics in animal agriculture, and then use them in a very judicious and targeted way at certain stages of an animal's development," Cathie Woteki, the Agriculture Department's chief scientist, told reporters. "This will go a very long way towards achieving the reduction in the development of anti-microbial resistance."
The measure is part of a broader initiative by the White House to combat the overuse of antibiotics - in people and animals - that has created what the administration has called a global crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated drug-resistant bacteria cause more than 2 million illnesses and at least 23,000 deaths in the United States each year.
In December 2013, the FDA asked drug companies to stop labeling antibiotics as acceptable for growth production in animals if those drugs also are used to treat infections in humans. This rule formalizes the announcement with specific guidelines for veterinarians.
The plan comes as the White House held a forum Tuesday in Washington where more than 150 food companies, retailers, drug companies, hospitals, and others committed to make changes during the next five years to slow the spread and emergence of resistant bacteria. Among those pledging to participate: Cargill, McDonald's, Smithfield and the National Pork Board.
As part of the administration's initiative, President Barack Obama also directed federal departments and agencies to favor serving "meat and poultry produced according to responsible antibiotic-use" in their cafeterias.
Paul Sundberg,vice president of science and technology with the National Pork Board in Des Moines, said the FDA rule mirrors work already underway in the pork industry. He said producers are working with veterinarians to make sure they are judiciously and responsibly using antibiotics.
"It always been important but these (new FDA requirements) has given it a lot more visibility," said Sundberg, who attended the White House panel. He said the industry is going to "embrace the challenge" of the new FDA rule and make sure producers know "how best to comply and how best to integrate that new antibiotic use guidelines into their product to still maintain the health of their pigs."
Keep Antibiotics Working, which criticized the White House for not inviting consumer groups working to combat antibiotic resistance related to animal agriculture to the meeting, called the announcements a good first step. Still, the organization echoed calls of other consumer groups in saying more needs to be done.
"While a handful of chicken producers have taken significant steps to reduce antibiotic use, beef, pork, and turkey producers have not," said Susan Vaughn Grooters, a policy analyst with Keep Antibiotics Working. We remain "concerned that the White House's efforts may provide cover for these sectors as they resist real change."
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