Eat At Your Own Risk: FDA Permitted Use of Dangerous Antibiotics in Live Stock

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Cancer, premature  puberty, mad cow disease… All of these health hazards have been linked to the use of toxic growth hormones and antibiotics in livestock. The  FDA is charged with protecting the health interests of the consumer, but in Washington, where money (lobbyists) talks, public health is rarely the number one priority.

Now, a watchdog group is calling attention to the use of antibiotics in farm animals that may have caused the  spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.

The United States Food and Drug Administration allowed 18 animal drugs to stay on the market even after an agency review found the drugs posed a “high risk” of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through food supply, according to a study released Monday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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Agribusinesses say animal drugs help increase production and keep prices low for U.S. consumers, while consumer advocates and some scientists raise concerns over antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Last year, the FDA unveiled guidelines for drug makers and agricultural companies to voluntarily phase out antibiotic use as a growth enhancer in livestock. The agency said those guidelines were an effort to stem the surge in human resistance to certain antibiotics.

But the NRDC’s study found the FDA took no action to remove 30 antibiotic-based livestock feed products from the market even after federal investigators determined many of those antibiotics fell short of current regulatory standards for protecting human health.

NRDC studied a review conducted by the FDA from 2001 to 2010 that focused on 30 penicillin and tetracycline-based antibiotic feed additives. The drugs had been approved by regulators to be used specifically for growth promotion of livestock and poultry – essentially to produce more meat to sell.

Some academics have called the NRDC’s  report misleading, in that it omits recent efforts of the agricultural industry to curtail the use of toxic of antibiotics.

 

Dr. Randall Singer, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, told Reuters that drug makers and the U.S. livestock industry are phasing out antibiotics used principally for growth promotion.

“We have been telling (both of) them for years to be prepared for the elimination of growth promotion and feed efficiency labeling because you cannot make that change overnight,” said Singer, who reviewed the NRDC report for Reuters.

The NRDC, which reviewed more than 3,000 pages of documents through a federal Freedom of Information Act request, said it found evidence to suggest nine of the drugs are still on the market and used by livestock producers. Reuters was not able to independently verify that detail immediately.

NRDC attorney Avinash Kar, one of the study’s authors, said the group’s findings raise questions about whether regulators will be effective in enforcing the new guidelines.

“The FDA’s failure to act on its own findings about the 30 reviewed antibiotic feed additives is part of a larger pattern of delay and inaction in tackling livestock drug use that goes back four decades,” Kar told Reuters.

 

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