Next time you bite into a pork chop or enjoy chicken salad this summer, you might want to thank Uncle Sam and the pharmaceutical industry for that special ingredient in your meat — antibiotics. That’s right. Up to 80% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in industrial animal confinements for chicken, beef and hogs at sub-therapeutic levels, not to treat disease, but to make the animals grow faster.
For years doctors and scientists have warned our federal government and livestock producers that the continued use of sub-therapeutic antibiotic is a serious threat to human health, but federal agencies have been bullied by the factory farm industry.
The Obama administration recently released rules that would allow factory farms to continue the rampant misuse of antibiotics, making compliance voluntary. Tell President Obama and the FDA that it’s time close the loopholes and make strong rules on antibiotics use in livestock mandatory to put public health over factory farm profits.
Dear President Obama and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg,
I am a concerned citizen writing to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take action and protect human health by finalizing Guidance 209 (Docket No. FDA-2010-D-0094) and improving draft Guidance 213 (FDA-2011-D-0889) and Veterinary Feed Directive; Draft Text for Proposed Regulation (Docket No. FDA-2010-N-0155).
I am pleased that FDA released these documents. However, several important improvements are needed, and while these guidance and draft rule text are important initial actions, ultimately comprehensive and mandatory measures will be needed to fully ensure long-term public health protections.
Most notably, the agency has failed to adequately address the massive overuse of the drugs to compensate for the effects of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions–uses sometimes referred to by the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries as “disease prevention.” In order to fulfill its mandate to protect public health, FDA must significantly limit use of life-saving antibiotics for disease prevention purposes. These uses should be a last resort, when all other options have failed. FDA should work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure food animal producers first solve crowding and sanitation problems by changing practices before resorting to antibiotics.
In addition, it is unclear how FDA will monitor antibiotic use and resistance rates to measure the effectiveness of its action. The agency must let the public know what its plans are. If these measures do not significantly reduce antibiotic use and drug-resistant bacteria, then FDA should detail how and when it will take additional steps to put stronger measures in place. Again, I would like to thank you for taking action on this very important issue. By eliminating the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animal production and reducing the prevalence of antibiotic resistance, we are saving antibiotics and allowing them to remain effective for treating sick people and animals. I look forward to seeing how the agency improves its plans to protect our health.