A group of nearly 800 health professionals has sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take action on the rampant overuse and misuse of antibiotics in livestock which has contributed to the rise in antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" and poses a massive threat to public health.
“In our hospitals, and in our communities, antibiotics increasingly are failing to treat drug resistant superbugs,” stated David Wallinga, MD of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Healthy Food Action. “The huge overuse of these antibiotics on our farms, in meat production, is an important—and unaddressed—contributor to the problem.”
Livestock are given these antibiotics to encourage faster growth and to compensate for the overcrowded, unhealthy conditions the animals are confined to in the industrial agriculture system.
Antibiotics are so used, they write, "over 70 percent of total reported sales of medically important antibiotics in the United States" are used not for human but for animal use.
The group quotes the Director General of the World Health Organization, who warned last year that "a post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it." Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said earlier this year that there is an alarming rise in antibiotic-resistant, deadly "nightmare bacteria," a warning echoed by Britain's top health official, who said that antibiotic resistant "superbugs" pose a "catastrophic threat."
The health professionals write that the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) actions on this issue are "stalled," and that the current guidelines that merely encourage the pharmaceutical industry to phase out the overuse of antibiotics in livestock are inadequate.
They are asking Obama "to ensure that FDA moves immediately to use its regulatory authority to withdraw approvals for the non-therapeutic use (i.e., use of antibiotics for purposes other than disease treatment and disease control) of all medically-important antibiotics from food animal production, thus preserving their use for treating sick people."
Obama must also "improve reporting of agricultural antibiotic sales and distribution, which can help illustrate current use patterns, explain resistance trends, and monitor progress in assuring responsible animal antibiotic use," they write.