NSAC's Blog

Lawsuit to Restrict Antibiotic Use in Industrial Animal Production

May 27, 2011

On Wednesday, May 25, NSAC members the Food Animal Concerns Trust and the Union of Concerned Scientists joined the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Public Citizen in a lawsuit to compel the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to respond to citizen petitions requesting that FDA take action to limit the use of antibiotics in the production of livestock and poultry.  The petitions, filed in 1999 and 2005, asked the FDA to restrict the use of antibiotics important to human medicine from being used to treat animals that are not sick.

Some 80 percent of antibiotics used in the US are given to animals.  Many antibiotics used to treat human diseases and infections are routinely provided in animal feed or water at industrial food animal production systems, not to treat sick animals, but to offset for the stressful, unsanitary, crowded conditions or to promote growth.  This non-therapeutic antibiotic use can give rise to antibiotic resistance in bacteria that infect people.  As result, the antibiotics can lose their effectiveness in treating humans.  A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Market Forces provides a clear discussion of this issue.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), World Health Organization and others have identified the routine use of antibiotics in livestock for non-therapeutic purposes as a significant contributor to the rapid proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both animals and humans.  In response to this research, the American Medical Association, World Health Organization, Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and hundreds of other organizations have recommended that livestock producers be prohibited from using medically important antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes.  Many nations, including all 27 member states of the European Union, already have taken action on these recommendations.

Representative Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) has introduced legislation in Congress, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2011 (H.R. 965), that would restrict antibiotic use in food-producing animals.  The Act would require that the Secretary of Health and Human Services deny new non-therapeutic uses of critical antimicrobial animal drugs in food animals unless the applicant demonstrates that it is reasonably certain that there would be no harm to human health due to the development of antimicrobial resistance.  The bill would also aid the FDA in phasing out existing unsafe non-therapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics.  The Act defines “critical antimicrobial animal drug” as a drug intended for use in food-producing animals that contains specified antibiotics or other drugs used in humans to treat or prevent disease or infection caused by microorganisms.”  NSAC has joined 378 health, agriculture, environment, animal protection, religious, and other interest groups on a Market Forces endorsing this legislation.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment, Food Safety, General Interest

One response to “Lawsuit to Restrict Antibiotic Use in Industrial Animal Production”

  1. Tom Connor says:

    The FDA is being sued to take action; understood. The agency presumably opposes the plaintiff’s demand for action. Is this their position? On what grounds will they be defending their position?
    To know the answers to these questions might very well suggest a course of grassroots action(s) to move the FDA forward.