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Federal Court Rules FDA Must Investigate Antibiotic Overuse in Livestock


With more than 80 percent of the nation's antibiotic supply now going into feed for animals raised as food, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are rapidly threatening human health, and it's an issue that can no longer be ignored by the FDA, ruled a federal court judge last night.

Finding in favor of the plaintiffs—organizations including the National Resources Defense Council, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animal Concerns Trust and the Union of Concerned Scientists—the judge's ruling noted that “research has shown that the use of antibiotics in livestock leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be--and has been--transferred from animals to humans through direct contact, environmental exposure, and the consumption and handling of contaminated meat and poultry products.” As a result, the FDA must take action and withdraw approval of non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics including penicillin and tetracycline in animal feed unless they are proven to be safe for industrial use. Additionally, the FDA must honor its obligation to conduct hearings on withdrawing the approval of antibiotics now considered overused by the judge's ruling.

The overwhelming majority of antibiotics used on livestock are given to generally healthy farm animals as a preventative measure against the unsanitary living conditions and close proximity to other animals that can often lead to slow-healing wounds as a result of routine fighting. Antibiotics are also added to feed to promote faster animal growth, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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In a statement released by the NRDC, Jen Sorenson an attorney for the organization said: “Thanks to the Court’s order, drug manufacturers will finally have to do what FDA should have made them do 35 years ago: prove that their drugs are safe for human health, or take them off the market.”

The news comes just days after the World Health Organization issued a harsh warning about the overuse of antibiotics and the development of antibiotic resistant pathogens, suggesting that we're entering into a 'post-antibiotic era' where minor infections such as strep throat or a scraped knee could have the potential to kill its victim.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: Orin Zebest

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