Why is the FDA Hiding Information about Antibiotic Use in Livestock?

Antibiotic Cows

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?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sirronc Sirron Carrector

    That was a great way to end the post. Lobbyist! They need to be held accountable. Unfortunately, money is power.

    • malmedia

      Consumers as a whole have more money than the lobbyists. Where I think we lag behind is in the focus, organization, and motivation to use our money and our power for our own best interest.

      There are consumer advocacy groups out there, but I don’t think we have enough consumers supporting them to effectively keep the corp. backed lobbyists at bay.

      Sites like Fooducate, are helping us consumers with the power of KNOWLEDGE.

  • Nancy- The Frugal Dietitian

    Off the subject – but congrats on your app being recommended on a Medscape article:

    “Apps to Help Achieve New Year’s Resolutions”

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate


  • Brian

    All the more reason to find local producers for any of your animal foods. Get to know a farmer, and support her/him. They will bend over backwards to help you in most cases, and give you the best quality food you can find. You just can’t trust what you are getting from the grocery store. Thanks to Fooducate for helping us figure out the good and bad at the store… it isn’t easy to figure out…. And I think the FDA is behind that as well.

  • SuperMom101

    Another great post on Fooducate. Find it very interesting that the FDA releases some summary data each year, but denied the request [because] that applies to commercial information and trade secrets. Isn’t that the same argument the cigarette companies used?

    For the record, someone wants to smoke – that’s their choice. We don’t have a choice when it comes to America’s highly processed, Franken food supply – I had no idea when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 38 that America’s food supply could be making me sick. Excellent comment on here on the need for us consumers to have “real” knowledge and I’d add – then vote with our wallets by only purchasing “real” food.

    Best health to everyone this New Year!

  • Maxine
  • Amy

    Support http://www.meatwithoutdrugs.com
    Check it out!

  • melodiescom345

    It seems so strange that the FDA would refuse to release this information to the public. People have a right to know about what antibiotics they are giving to livestock. We don’t want to eat meat that is contaminated because that is just going to cause larger health risks to the whole population. Not to mention, it is completely unethical to treat animals poorly and not ensure that they are receiving great antibiotics that will keep them healthy.