FDA Warned Against Curtailing Antibiotic Use in Livestock

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its proposal to limit the use of certain antibiotics in livestock, and warning that such a ban could unintentionally increase the threat of foodborne illness in the United States.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its proposal to limit the use of certain antibiotics in livestock, and warning that such a ban could unintentionally increase the threat of foodborne illness in the United States .

The FDA draft guidance would prohibit the use of "medically important" antibiotics for growth promotion in food-producing animals such as cows, pigs and chickens, and would require veterinary oversight for remaining uses. In its comments, CEI warned that "uses of these drugs for growth promotion reduces pathogen loads in animal-derived foods and have a positive impact on human safety, so such restrictions could do more harm than good."

Antibiotic use in livestock has been criticized by the public health community due to concerns that it contributes to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. However, U.S. government studies indicate that livestock use accounts for only about 10 percent of the problem with resistant bacteria and that misuse in human patients is the leading cause of antibiotic resistance.

CEI notes that FDA already regulates animal antibiotic use stringently and mandates efforts to slow down the development of bacterial resistance. Many governments in Europe have banned the use of antibiotics for growth promotion purposes, but, CEI claims these efforts have had little or no effect on the development of resistant bacteria.

"After the U.K., Denmark, and then the entire European Union banned antibiotic use for growth promotion, the incidence of many resistant bacteria increased, not decreased," says CEI. "Those bans have increased the cost of raising animals and made food more expensive, but they've done absolutely nothing to improve public health." 

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