FDA Calls for Livestock Antibiotic Limits

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Aaron Huertas, 202-331-5458

FDA Calls for Livestock Antibiotic Limits

Statement by Margaret Mellon, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON - A
top Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official yesterday opposed the
practice of routinely feeding antibiotics to pigs, cattle and chickens
to promote growth. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists
(UCS), this practice leads to the development of bacteria that are
immune to antibiotics, undermining their effectiveness in treating
human diseases.

The
official, FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, was
testifying at a hearing before the House Rules Committee on a bill that
would cancel several uses of antibiotics used in farm animals. The bill
is sponsored by New York Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter.

It
was the first time since the late 1970s that an FDA official has
publicly advocated limiting the use of antibiotics in agriculture. The
agency has the authority to cancel specific uses, but Dr. Sharfstein
did not offer a timetable for doing so.

Margaret Mellon, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Food and Environment Program, also testified before the committee. Below is a statement by Mellon:

"Livestock
production accounts for about 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the
United States each year. Penicillin, tetracycline and other drugs that
doctors prescribe to treat human disease are routinely fed to pigs,
cattle and chickens to promote growth and protect them in overcrowded,
stressful living conditions.

"When
bacteria are routinely exposed to antibiotics, they develop resistance
to them and become 'superbugs' that can move from animals to humans
through food, air and water. Treating a patient infected by a superbug
with an ineffective drug can lead to a more serious illness, and if
none of the available antibiotics work, resistance becomes a matter of
life and death.

"Given
there are no new antibiotics under development, unless we preserve the
antibiotics we have, the age of miracle antibiotics could come to an
end. To make sure that doesn't happen, the FDA should limit antibiotic
use in agriculture whenever possible and cancel the use of those
antibiotics used in human medicine in livestock production for growth
promotion, feed efficiency and routine disease prevention.

"We're
encouraged by Dr. Sharfstein's comments at the hearing, and commend
Representative Slaughter for shining a light on this critical issue. We
urge the FDA to take action to curb this dangerous practice. "

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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