Factory farms have a problem. The animals are raised in such close quarters, that they literally stand in their own feces. As a result they have a much higher chance of contracting disease. As a safety measure, many are routinely treated with antibiotics. The use of antibiotics is so widespread that every year, 30 million pounds are used for livestock. They account for 80% (!) of the total antibiotics sold in the United States.
The challenge is that antibiotics lose their efficacy over time. New strains of bacteria evolve that are resistant to the antibiotics. A vicious cycle is formed.
The Animal Drug User Fee Act of 2003 (ADUFA), authorizes FDA to collect fees for certain animal drug applications, and for the establishments, products and sponsors associated with these and previously approved animal drug applications, in support of the review of animal drugs. According to the FDA, these fees ensure that new animal drug products are safe and effective for animals as well as for the public with respect to animals intended for food consumption.
Antibiotic use (and misuse) is a major public health issue, and it would make sense for the government to release as much information as possible on the matter to the public. In 2008, ADUFA provisions began requiring drug companies to report information about their antibiotic sales. But unfortunately, that information is not passed on to the public.
According to Parke Wilde, who blogs at US Food Policy:
FDA releases some summary data each year, but denied the request for more detailed tabulations,citing an exemption in freedom-of-information law that applies to commercial information and trade secrets. This seems wrong. Misuse of antibiotics is an important public health issue, and the aggregated data requested were not firm-specific.
The FDA is now being sued by consumer advocacy groups demanding the data be released to the public. Why is the FDA withholding the information? Although the FDA collects more fees the more antibiotics are sold, that cannot be a serious enough reason. Are certain food lobbies applying gentle pressure to keep us blissfully ignorant?
What do you think?