The FDA has given approval for thirty antibiotic additives to stay in livestock feed despite the agency's own findings that the drugs pose significant human health risks.
According to documents acquired by the National Resource Defense Council and compiled into a new report entitled "Playing Chicken with Antibiotics," the FDA’s own scientific reviews found that "the use of [antibiotics] in livestock has not been shown to be safe for human health. And FDA scientists classified 18 of the 30 drugs, in their current use, as presenting a 'high risk' of adversely affecting public health."
The documents revealed that in 2001, the FDA reviewed 30 penicillin and tetracycline poultry and livestock feed and water additives for “subtherapeutic use”—which is typically to speed animal growth. All but one of the antibiotics failed to meet the agency's safety requirements for antibiotic additives established in 1973, yet the agency is not requiring livestock producers to remove them from animal feed.
The report notes that under current FDA guidelines for antimicrobial safety, none of the 30 antibiotic additives would be likely candidates for approval. More than half of the antibiotics were assessed as "posing a high risk" for adversely affecting human health, and would not be approved under current standards. And the remaining dozen products were approved without sufficient data from the drug manufacturers on the drugs' safety.
"Despite FDA scientists finding that at least 29 of the antibiotic additives are not proven to be safe, no action has been taken to withdraw approval," notes the NRDC. "According to our research, twenty eight remain approved for use in livestock production and many remain on the market."
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