Label Review Reveals Another Reason FDA Guidance Won’t Stop Misuse of Antibiotics in Livestock

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Anna Ghosh, aghosh(at)fwwatch(dot)org, 510-922-0075

Label Review Reveals Another Reason FDA Guidance Won’t Stop Misuse of Antibiotics in Livestock

WASHINGTON - The practice of giving low doses of antibiotics to healthy livestock on factory farms is contributing to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a growing public health concern that’s making antibiotics less effective in treating infections in humans and animals. The Food and Drug Administration released voluntary guidance, GFI #213, in December to address this issue known as nontherapeutic use. However, a Food & Water Watch analysis reveals that 89 percent of antibiotic drugs that the guidance advises against using for growth promotion can still be given to healthy animals for other reasons.

To assess the overlap between growth promotion uses, which the FDA is limiting, and prevention uses, which remain unchecked, Food &Water Watch analyzed the FDA’s list of over 400 drug products affected by GFI #213. FDA’s list includes 217 medically important antibiotic drugs with growth promotion indications. Of those drugs, 63 percent also have disease prevention indications, meaning the drugs can continue to be used nontherapeutically, which will continue to promote the development of antibiotic resistance. Of the remaining medically important antibiotic drugs used for growth promotion, 59 can still be used for “disease control” in healthy animals. That leaves only 23 drugs – 11 percent – with no approved nontherapeutic uses under full implementation of GFI #213.

“We are dismayed to discover that the FDA’s voluntary guidance will do even less than we thought in slowing down the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The public health community has been fighting for more than 30 years to get the FDA to do something about this public health crisis and a loophole like this is too serious to be ignored.”  

“The overlap between growth promotion and disease prevention makes the voluntary guidelines a shell game,” said Tyler Smith, program officer at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. “FDA should use its regulatory authority to ban feeding low doses of antibiotics to food animals, including for disease prevention.”

Food & Water Watch’s analysis comes as the comment period on the Veterinary Feed Directive comes to a close. Currently, most antibiotics sold in livestock feed are available over the counter without veterinary oversight. Under GFI #213, medically important antibiotics will be put under the guidance of a veterinarian, but the directive is voluntary.

“Flawed, voluntary guidelines will not stem the tide of antibiotic resistance. We need Congress to take action towards banning the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms.”

Read more about this issue on our blog.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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