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FDA Concealed the 'High Risk' Livestock Antibiotics Pose to People

Documents obtained by NRDC show FDA documented danger but allowed antibiotics anyway

Sarah Lazare, staff writer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed at least 30 antibiotics used in animal feed to remain on the market despite its own internal analysis finding a majority of them contribute to the dangerous problem of antibiotic- resistant bacteria in people.

The scientific analysis, which was conducted between 2001 and 2010 by the FDA, was kept quiet and only made public when the Natural Resources Defense Council obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The FDA, which is the government body responsible for regulating the use of antibiotics in animal livestock, examined 30 penicillin and tetracycline additives —which play an important role in human medical care — in animal feed.

They found that 18 of these additives are at "high risk" of exposing people to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through food consumption and constitute a danger to human health. In addition, the FDA found all 30 of the antibiotics would not meet requirements for approval today due to insufficient information about their safety for humans, and 26 of them would not satisfy the safety standards established by the FDA in 1973, according to an NRDC summary of the documents.


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Yet the FDA took no meaningful action on these additives, according to the NRDC. As a result, "at least nine of these additives are being marketed today, and all but the two voluntarily withdrawn additives remain approved for use today," according to a statement released by the NRDC.

"The evidence is clear. Drugmakers never proved safety. And FDA continues to knowingly allow the use of drugs in animal feed that likely pose a ‘high risk’ to human health," said Carmen Cordova, NRDC microbiologist and lead author of the new NRDC analysis. "That’s a breach of their responsibility and the public trust.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least two million people in the United States fall sick and 23,000 die every year from antibiotic-resistant infections.


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