Think FAR, now -- 3 ways to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

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In the last few months, I have been talking a lot about what FDA is failing to do to effectively regulate antibiotics in animal feed and protect public health. Today, I thought I would talk about what we, as citizens, can do to spur action. 

There's a lot to do. Why do I say that? Earlier this winter, we saw the recall of ground beef in the Northeast that was infected with Salmonella resistant to multiple antibiotics, including commonly used antibiotics for humans; 19 people were sickened in 7 states. A study published in January by scientists at the National Animal Disease Center of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that pigs that are routinely fed antibiotics in their feed not only have more antibiotic-resistant bacteria, they actually have more virulent bacteria.

Americans are beginning to take notice. Both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times recently published editorials urging greater action to curtail antibiotic use in livestock. And during the Grammys, Chipotle ran a much-talked-about ad referencing its choice to serve meat raised without the use of pharmaceuticals.  

We need to keep the momentum going.

The FDA and the Obama administration need to hear from American consumers that this is an issue that matters to our health and the health of our families, and that it’s time the FDA took meaningful action to help preserve life-saving antibiotics for when we need it by ending their use in healthy livestock where it’s not needed.

Right now, there are several avenues for us to take action to protect life-saving antibiotics for human use.

1)      Tell FDA to finalize the ban on cephalosporins and take broader action: The FDA is currently taking comment on its announcement that it will ban unapproved uses of antibiotics called cephalosporins in livestock. As I have written before, this is a bit of a sleight of hand. FDA should take this step. But this addresses less than 0.2 percent of antibiotic use in livestock. It is a small step in the right direction, but it does nothing to address the much larger problem of overuse and misuse of antibiotics in livestock feed and water. Go here to urge FDA to both finalize the cephalosporin ban and to take the broader action that is required to truly make a difference.

2)      Urge the Administration to take action: There is also an active petition urging the Administration to take meaningful action to end antibiotic overuse in livestock. The White House says it will respond to petitions once the petition collects 25,000 signatures. Let’s get them those signatures. [Note that you will need to create an account and verify your email on the White House web site to sign any petition. Once you create your account, you will receive a confirmation email. Click the link in the email to confirm your registration. Then go back to the petition and click “Sign this Petition”.]

3)      Eat better, feel better: When you go to the store, look for meat and animal products produced without the use of antibiotics, such as those carrying the “organic” label. If your store doesn’t carry meat or animal products grown without the use of antibiotics, consider speaking to a manager at the store to let him/her know that you’d like to have the option to purchase such products. When you vote with your wallet, you’re also sending a message to industry that knowing what’s in your food is a priority.  

Thank you for taking action to protect public health.  Share the links above with your friends and family. We need collective action to make sure our food is safe and our medicines work effectively when we need them most.  

Image courtesy of Stephen & Claire Farnsworth, via Flickr