Thirty five years after it initially proposed limiting the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in livestock, the FDA has finally taken a substantive step in this direction. In a press release yesterday, the government body (whose role is to protect consumers by regulating the food and drug industries) declared that … it is asking growers to voluntarily limit the use of antibiotics:
“FDA takes steps to protect public health
Agency working with animal, drug and medical communities to promote judicious antimicrobial use
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria or other microbes develop the ability to resist the effects of a drug. Once this occurs, a drug may no longer be as effective in treating various illnesses or infections.
Because it is well established that all uses of antimicrobial drugs, in both humans and animals, contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary.
Based on a consideration of relevant reports and scientific data, FDA is proposing a voluntary initiative to phase in certain changes to how medically important antimicrobial drugs are labeled and used in food-producing animals…” Read more from the FDA…
So even though it’s clear to all that the continued use of antibiotics is dangerous, the FDA couldn’t muscle enough weight against the powerful drug and meat corporations to outright limit or ban this practice.
To get a sense of the extent of the use of antibiotics: 80% of antibiotics sold in the US today go to livestock. In 75% of the cases, the antibiotics are mixed in with the animal feed or water purely as a preventive measure.
So how exactly will the FDAs proposed change take effect?
The FDA has asked pharma companies to relabel about 200 drugs used today to promote growth, so that they can only be prescribed by veteranarians for sick animals.
Our take: Expect the drug companies to battle this request for many years before we see any changes in animal husbandry practices. In the meantime who knows what interesting pandemics we will encounter …
What to do at the supermarket:
If you care about how your meat came to be meat, this is just one more reason to opt for organic. Or a local and trusted farmer that can explain exactly what was used to grow their livestock. Or to buy less.