FDA: 70 Percent Of Antibiotics Sold In US Are Used In Livestock, And That Number Continues To Rise

According to the latest report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), released Friday, April 10, sales of medically important antibiotics for the treatment of livestock continue to rise. 

This is despite repeated warnings from the FDA itself, the World Health Organizationhundreds of American physicians, and the Centers for Disease Control, which called antibiotic resistance one of the five greatest health threats facing the nation.

As we've previously reported, public health officials have continually warned against the use of human antibiotics on farm animals, abuses of which have been linked to increasingly resilient "superbugs," including drug-resistant tuberculosis and gonorrhea.

The study, which looks at the sales of antibiotics in 2013, found that there was an increase of 3 percent in the use of antibiotics important to human medicine, from approximately 9,800 tons to nearly 10,140 tons, since 2012. Additionally, 95 percent of medically important antibiotics sold wound up in the food and water given to farm animals, up from 94 percent.

The FDA previously indicated that it would stop the routine use of antibiotics to increase growth, but not for disease prevention. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, "Because 'growth promotion' and 'disease prevention' uses overlap significantly, stopping only growth promotion uses would allow the continued routine use of antibiotics at low doses in the feed and water of large numbers of animals that are not sick."

Currently, the NRDC is working with California Senator Jerry Hill to close the FDA loophole that allows the use of those same antibiotics for disease prevention. The organization has called upon individual states, "in the absence of meaningful federal action," to do their part to stop the proliferation of antibiotics in livestock.