It's a win for foodies and health advocates alike: The Food and Drug Administration called on drug companies and food producers to halt the use of antibiotics in farm animals Wednesday, citing concerns over new strains of drug-resistant bacteria.
The practice of adding antibiotics to animal feed to fatten up livestock and save money on feed has been decried for decades. The agriculture industry has fought back against criticism, saying the antibiotics keeps the animals healthy.
Now, the FDA is cracking down on overuse of antibiotics for meat production. The agency stated, "FDA believes that using medically important antimicrobial drugs to increase production in food-producing animals is not a judicious use." HealthDay reported that Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy comissioner, said, "We know that the widespread use of antibiotics can contribute to antimicrobial resistance, which has public health consequences... We know that the use of medically important drugs for production purposes in food-producing animals is a contributing factor." Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as malaria and staph, has become more dangerous and more widespread, public health advocates say.
Under the new FDA rules, antibiotics would only be used if an animal was sick, and would be prescribed by veterinarians. (As of late, farmers could buy antibiotics over the counter.) However, the FDA's ruling isn't binding: The Washington Post notes that drug manufacturers must also comply with the new rules and adjust their antibiotics labeling.The reason the newest ruling isn't binding, said the FDA, is that a formal regulation would take years to enforce after individual hearings for each drug.
However, many doubt whether the drug makers will adhere to such strigent guidelines. Said Richard Wood, chair of the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition, to the Associated Press, "This is not an issue where trust should be the measure. This is an issue where the measure is whether or not the FDA has fulfilled its authority of protecting public health."