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Court Orders FDA to Resume Hearings Examining Antibiotic Use in Animal Feed

March 28, 2012

On Thursday, March 22, U.S. District Court of Southern New York Judge Theodore H. Katz ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reissue its proposal to examine the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed.

According to the Market Forces (UCS), nearly 70 percent of all antibiotics used in this country are given to animals to promote growth and prevent disease caused by overly crowded conditions.  The use of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed can promote the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria, ultimately threatening human health.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), Public Citizen, and Market Forces filed a law suit last year to force FDA to follow through on a 35 year old proposal to ban the use of these antibiotics for non-medical use in animals.  In 1977, FDA concluded that penicillin and tetracyclines given to animals can in fact promote antibiotic resistance bacteria growth.  This conclusion obligated FDA to rescind approval of such drugs for non-therapeutic use following a public hearing, yet FDA never took any further action.  Last week’s court order mean the onus is on the drug companies to prove the safety of their products.

“If, at the hearing, the drug sponsors fail to show that use of the drugs is safe, the ‘FDA’ commissioner must issue a withdrawal order,” stated Katz.

Environmental and consumer groups applauded Katz’s ruling.

“For over 35 years ago, FDA has sat idly on the sidelines largely letting the livestock industry police itself,” said Avinash Kar, NRDC health attorney.  “In that time, the overuse of antibiotics in healthy animals has skyrocketed – contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that endanger human health.  Today, we take a long overdue step towards ensuring that we preserve these life-saving medicines for those who need them most – people.  These drugs are intended to cure disease, not fatten pigs and chickens.”

Read the NRDC press release, Court Orders FDA to Address Antibiotic Overuse in Livestock and Protect Effectiveness of Medicine for Humans.

Categories: Food Safety, Local & Regional Food Systems

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