New FDA Data Confirm What UCS Has Been Saying For Years: Antimicrobial Use In U.S. Livestock And Poultry Is Massive

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Elliott Negin
Media Director
202-331-5439
enegin@ucsusa.org

New FDA Data Confirm What UCS Has Been Saying For Years: Antimicrobial Use In U.S. Livestock And Poultry Is Massive

WASHINGTON - A new report by the Food and Drug Administration confirms what the
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has been saying for years: American
livestock and poultry producers are using massive amounts of
antimicrobial drugs, which include antibacterials, antibiotics and
antiparasiticals. 
 
The FDA report,
which the agency quietly posted on its website late last Friday, found
that nearly 29 million pounds of antimicrobials were sold in 2009 for
both therapeutic and non-therapeutic use for all farm animal species.
That figure is consistent with an estimate in a 2001 UCS report, “Hogging It,”
which calculated that 25 million pounds of antimicrobials were used in
one year in only three sectors—cattle, swine and poultry—for
non-therapeutic purposes such as promoting growth and preventing disease
in animals forced to live in crowded, unsanitary conditions.

“The FDA findings corroborate what we concluded nine years ago,” said
Margaret Mellon, director of the UCS Food and Environment Program.
“Antimicrobial use in U.S. animal agriculture is way out of proportion
of what is necessary. And that poses dire risks for human health by
undermining the effectiveness of these drugs.”

UCS estimated that the amount used for farm animals was about eight
times more than the three million pounds doctors prescribed that year
for human medical purposes. All told, UCS estimated that 70 percent of
total antimicrobial drugs used in the United States is devoted to
non-therapeutic use in livestock.

Hogging It
was attacked by the livestock industry, which charged that its
estimates were based on flawed methodology. At the time, the U.S.
government was not tracking antimicrobial use in U.S. livestock and
poultry. In 2008, Congress passed the Animal Drug User Fee Act, which
required the FDA to compile and disseminate data on antimicrobial sales
and distribution in food animal agriculture. Last Friday was the
agency’s inaugural release of that information.

“The Obama administration recognizes we have a problem with
agricultural antimicrobials, but it has yet to move forcefully on the
issue,” Mellon said. “We hope the FDA report will motivate the
administration to take concrete steps to protect public health by
limiting inappropriate antimicrobial use.”

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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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