The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has denied two citizen petitions urging the FDA to withdraw the approvals for antibiotics given to animals in feed or water for purposes other than disease treatment if the antibiotics are also used in human medicine.

The petitions were filed by Environmental Defense, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animal Concerns Trust, and the Union of Concerned Scientists along with other groups. They contend that using antibiotics in this way in food animals can lead to the spread of difficult-to-treat resistant infections in humans. They also asked that the FDA take action on the Agency's own safety findings from 1977 and withdraw approval for most uses of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed. 


In denying the petitions, the FDA did not challenge the need to reduce antibiotic use, but argued that the withdrawal process itself was too expensive and resource intensive. The FDA stated that it plans "to work with sponsors who approach the FDA and are interested in working cooperatively to phase out production uses of medically important antimicrobials."

The FDA has released a draft version of a document that describes its plan to reduce use through the voluntary withdrawal by pharmaceutical companies of currently marketed uses of antibiotics in feed.