FDA Issues Guidance on Antibiotics in Food Animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a draft guidance (PDF) calling for the “judicious use” of antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals. The document, released June 28, calls for use of antibiotics only under veterinary oversight and when necessary for ensuring animal health.

The document, “The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals,” reviews reports from the past 30 years from the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, and other agencies, and concludes that “using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production [i.e., growth-enhancing] purposes is not in the interest of protecting and promoting the public health.”

Elizabeth Hitchcock, the public health advocate for US PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, said the draft guidance is a positive step.

“We have long opposed the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals, so I was heartened to see that the federal government is taking a stronger stand on these nontherapeutic uses,” she said in an interview with Food Quality magazine.

Others, however, were critical of the report. Agricultural trade groups said the FDA must look at the issue of antibiotics more broadly.

“Only by carefully evaluating antimicrobial resistance in a comprehensive manner that evaluates all of the peer-reviewed science related to all animal use, human use, and industrial use will we effectively address this important issue,” said Elizabeth Parker, DVM, chief veterinarian for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, in a statement.

The National Pork Producers Council, in a separate statement, said that “there appears to be no science on which FDA based the guidance.”

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, who has proposed legislation to limit the use of antibiotics in food production, said in a news release that the FDA “has proposed good steps, but they have not gone far enough or moved fast enough.”

The public has 60 days from the guidance release date to submit comments to the FDA.

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