Organic Consumers Association

Tell the FDA: We Need a Mandatory Ban on Sub-Therapeutic Doses of Antibiotics for Livestock—not Weak, Voluntary Guidance

More than 36 years ago the U.S. Food & Drug Administration acknowledged there was a problem with the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. In March 2012, the courts forced the FDA's hand. Finally, last week (December 11, 2013), the  FDA announced a plan to curb the routine use of sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics to treat and fatten up livestock on factory farms.

But the mostly voluntary, loophole-riddled “plan” falls far short of what scientists say is needed to stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that now pose a real and widespread danger to public health.

Please tell the FDA: We need a mandatory ban on sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for livestock—not weak, voluntary guidance.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y. 25th District), the only microbiologist in Congress and author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), called the FDA’s plan inadequate. In a press release Slaughter said, “The FDA’s voluntary guidance is an inadequate response to the overuse of antibiotics on the farm with no mechanism for enforcement and no metric for success.” 

Avinash Kar, a health attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the organizations that sued the FDA in 2012, told the Washington Post that the policy is “an early holiday gift to industry” and a “hollow gesture that does little to tackle a widely recognized threat to human health.”

The FDA’s Guidance for Industry #213, asks drug makers to voluntarily change the labels on drugs, so that they no longer state that the medicines can be used to make animals grow faster. (Note: They’re not being asked to actually change the drugs, just the labels). 

Also, under the new policy farmers can no longer obtain antibiotics over the counter from a feed store. Instead, they will have to get a prescription from a licensed veterinarian. The new regulation applies only to drugs that are also used on humans, including penicillin, azithromycin and tetracycline.

Factory farms that agree to voluntarily comply with the FDA’s new rules will have three years before they actually have to implement them—if they choose to implement them at all.

In her press release, Rep. Slaughter points out that according to OpenSecrets, of 225 lobbying reports filed last Congress on PAMTA, 195 (88 percent) were filed by organizations opposed to the legislation while only 30 (12 percent) were filed by organizations in favor of the legislation – almost a 7 to 1 ratio. OpenSecrets also reports major dollars (over $17 million just from a few groups) being used in lobbying against limits on antibiotic use in the first three quarters of this year alone.

Please take action today. Tell the FDA: We need a mandatory ban on sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics for livestock—not weak, voluntary guidance.



1-25 of 32961 signatures
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32961 13 hours ago jeff dennis Yountville , CA
32960 1 day ago Ernest Thayer SanFrancisco, CA
32959 1 day ago Gudrun Dennis Gainesville, FL
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32956 2 days ago Elizabeth Patten Chichester, NH
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32941 6 days ago Barbara Lastovka Dickson, TN
32940 7 days ago Richard Peterson Northbrook, IL
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32938 7 days ago Anonymous little falls, NJ
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Background and Facts

According to the FDA, about 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in farm animals. About 90 percent of those are fed to the animals through feed or water, not because the animals are sick, but as a preventive measure and to make the animals grow fatter, faster.

The overuse by factory farms of antibiotics that are critical to fight infections in humans is causing a rise in antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says at least 2 million people become infected annually in the U.S. with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection. 

More Facts:

The American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are among the over 400 organizations representing health, consumer, agricultural, environmental, humane, and other interests that have supported enactment of legislation to phase out nontherapeutic use in farm animals of medically important antimicrobials.

In 1977, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that feeding livestock low doses of antibiotics used in human disease treatment could promote the development of antibiotic-resistance in bacteria. However, the Food and Drug Administration did not act in response to these findings, despite laws requiring the agency to do so.

Antibiotic resistance linked to food animal operations is on the rise. Studies suggest that hog farms are a source of a new strain (ST398) of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a disease responsible for more deaths per year in the United States than AIDS.

In 2009, Cook County Hospital and the Alliance for Prudent Use of Antibiotics estimated that the total health care cost of antibiotic resistant infections in the United States was between $16,600,000,000 and $26,000,000,000 annually.

In January 2001, a Federal interagency task force cautioned that if current trends continue, treatments for common infections will become increasingly limited and expensive, and, in some cases, nonexistent.

The United States Geological Survey reported in March 2002 that antibiotics were present in 48 percent of the streams tested nationwide.

The peer-reviewed journal `Clinical Infectious Diseases' published a report in June 2002 that was based on a 2-year review by experts in human and veterinary medicine, public health, microbiology, biostatistics, and risk analysis, of more than 500 scientific studies on the human health impacts of antimicrobial use in agriculture and rrecommended that antimicrobial agents should no longer be used in agriculture in the absence of disease, but should be limited to therapy for diseased individual animals and prophylaxis when disease is documented in a herd or flock.

In 2010, the peer-reviewed journal `Molecular Cell' published a study demonstrating that low-dosage use of antibiotics causes a dramatic increase in genetic mutation, raising new concerns about the agricultural practice of using low-dosage antibiotics in order to stimulate growth promotion and routinely prevent disease in unhealthy conditions.

In 2010, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration testified that the Danish ban of the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in food animal production resulted in a marked reduction in antimicrobial resistance in multiple bacterial species, including Campylobacter and Enterococci.

In January 2013, Consumer Reports published test results on pork products bought in grocery stores nationwide showing disturbingly high levels of Salmonella and Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria that were resistant to the antibiotics used to treat food borne illnesses. A 2003 Consumer Report study showed similar results in poultry products.

The Food and Drug Administration's National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System routinely finds that retail meat products are contaminated with bacteria (including the foodborne pathogens Campylobacter and Salmonella) that are resistant to antibiotics important in human medicine. The 2011 National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System report found that the percentage of meat containing antibiotic resistant bacteria increases each year and that many of these bacteria exhibit multiple antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance, resulting in a reduced number of effective antibiotics, may significantly impair the ability of the United States to respond to terrorist attacks involving bacterial infections or a large influx of hospitalized patients.

(Source: go to: https://louise.house.gov/sponsored-legislation/ and click on HR1150 The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2013, then click on Text of Legislation, then click on Findings)