Cow eating

After filing a lawsuit last year aimed at forcing action over excessive antibiotic use in livestock production, the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) has called the agency’s recommendations an “ineffective response” for dealing with the alarming rise in antibiotic resistance, according to a statement released by the non-profit organization.

The FDA announced its final recommendations, called a “guidance” geared towards the livestock industry’s handling of antibiotics used in feed, but the agency has made no requirements of the industry despite the rulings of a federal court that said they must do so. The new guidance is an expanded version of a draft guideline released by the FDA in 2010. The NRDC calls the latest move an “empty gesture” taking no “effective action” on the issue.

Among the recommendations, the agency suggests phasing out antibiotics in production use and designating them more for therapeutic applications instead. Guidelines were also advised for drug manufacturers to require prescription and veterinarian authorization for certain drugs in feed. In a statement, agency commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg said, “This new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective.”  The NRDC called it a “make-believe solution.”

The World Health Organization also recently addressed the severity of the risks associated with rising antibiotic resistance, suggesting that the “post-antibiotic era” is rapidly approaching, and could lead to senseless deaths from minor infections if not addressed in the immediate future.

More than 29 million pounds of antibiotics were given to livestock in 2010—more than 80 percent of the nation’s supply. Routinely, antibiotics are used in feed to increase animal growth and help to prevent infections resulting from living in such dense and unsanitary conditions. The antibiotics wind up in our food supply and cause antibiotic-resistant pathogens that threaten human health.

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Image: JohnGoode