WASHINGTON—U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb today released a statement promising new agency efforts to address antibiotics overuse in livestock, but failed to provide any substantive details about changes in current policy.
A statement follows from Lena Brook, Interim Director of Food and Agriculture at the Natural Resources Defense Council:
“There’s no meat on the bones of this ‘new’ policy, just vague promises. Coming from an administration that so far has thumbed its nose at the world’s leading public health authority’s efforts to address the problem, that’s not reassuring. To keep these miracle drugs working when sick people and animals need them, FDA must end the widespread practice of using these drugs for so-called ‘disease prevention’ and set clear targets for antibiotics reduction in the industry. If the Commissioner wants to get serious about tackling this problem, he must address these core pieces.”
Right now, a loophole in FDA policy allows meat and poultry producers to overuse massive amounts of antibiotics in livestock when they aren’t sick, under the guise of “disease prevention.” This increases the spread of drug-resistant bacteria, and the risk of drug-resistant infections for people.
It comes after this administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture dismissed efforts from the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading global authority on public health, to address the problem on an international scale last fall.
Each year more than 2 million Americans suffer infections from bacteria that cannot be treated by one or more antibiotics—and at least 23,000 die. Leading medical experts warn that we must stop overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and animal agriculture, or else the life-saving drugs we rely on to treat common infections and enable medical procedures will increasingly stop working.
More than 70 percent of medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use on animals raised for food production, not people. About 95 percent of those drugs are routinely distributed en masse in feed or water—often to animals that are not sick to speed up growth and help animals survive crowded and unsanitary conditions on industrial farms.
Find more information about antibiotics overuse in livestock here.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.