Yesterday a federal judge in New York ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act on the growing human health threats caused by the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed.
The FDA had started proceedings in 1977 over concerns that antibiotics, including commonly used tetracyclines and penicillin, could promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria capable of infecting people but the proceedings were never completed, leaving the use of the antibiotics appoved.
If the makers of the drugs can't provide evidence that their use is safe, the FDA must withdraw their approval, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz ruled yesterday.
Roughly 70% of all U.S. antibiotics are used for livestock.
The decision results from a lawsuit filed last year by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Margaret Mellon, senior scientist with UCS’s Food & Environment Program, stated, “This ruling is an important victory for public health."
"The rise of superbugs that we see now was predicted by FDA in the 70’s,” said NRDC attorney Jen Sorenson. “Thanks to the Court’s order, drug manufacturers will finally have to do what FDA should have made them do 35 years ago: prove that their drugs are safe for human health, or take them off the market.”
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Union of Concerned Scientists: Judge Rules FDA Must Act to Protect Americans from Overuse of Antibiotics in Livestock
Statement by Margaret Mellon, senior scientist with UCS’s Food & Environment Program:
“This ruling is an important victory for public health. The FDA has known since the 1970s that the routine use of powerful antibiotics in livestock leads to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which cause infections that are more difficult to treat in both people and animals.
“For the past 35 years, while advocates and citizens alike have been urging FDA to take action, the problem has steadily worsened and FDA has sat on its hands, which begs the question of whose interests the agency is protecting.
“This ruling changes the landscape at FDA, making it clear that the agency has a statutory obligation to use its legal authority to cancel the approvals for uses of veterinary drugs the agency has found to be unsafe. The ruling calls into question policies that rely on companies to voluntarily withdraw label claims.
“The glacial pace of the FDA response on animal antibiotics is unacceptable. The agency needs to curb the unnecessary uses of vital antibiotics in animal agriculture. Peoples’ lives depend on it.”
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Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Court Orders FDA to Address Antibiotic Overuse in Livestock and Protect Effectiveness of Medicine for Humans
NEW YORK - March 23 - The Food and Drug Administration must act to address the growing human health threats resulting from the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed, according to a federal court ruling issued last night. The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), Public Citizen, and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) last year.
“For over 35 years ago, FDA has sat idly on the sidelines largely letting the livestock industry police itself,” said Avinash Kar, NRDC health attorney. “In that time, the overuse of antibiotics in healthy animals has skyrocketed – contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that endanger human health. Today, we take a long overdue step toward ensuring that we preserve these life-saving medicines for those who need them most – people.
“These drugs are intended to cure disease, not fatten pigs and chickens,” Kar said.
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In February, David Wallinga, M.D., of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy gave a TEDX talk "Raising Pigs & Problems: Saying No to Antibiotics in Animal Feed."