FDA to limit livestock antibiotics

More non-science based regulatory action.

The Washington Post reports,

The Food and Drug Administration plans to restrict a family of antibiotics commonly used to treat livestock, citing concerns that overuse might promote the development of drug-resistant bacteria that can infect people.

On Wednesday, the FDA said it would limit the use of cephalosporin in cattle, swine, chicken and turkey. The antibiotics can no longer be used to prevent diseases in livestock starting April 5, though they can still be used to treat illnesses, the FDA said.

Consumer advocates support the FDA’s decision. But they say the move is long overdue and deals with only one small part of a much larger public health issue tied to the overuse of antibiotics in animals. They want the FDA to also curtail the use of antibiotics in animal feed, an issue the agency has been grappling with since 1977.

The problem, public health advocates say, is that some antibiotics given to treat illnesses in people are widely used on animals to promote disease prevention and weight gain, as well as compensate for crowded conditions on ranches and farms. The prevalence of those antibiotics in livestock has been linked in several studies to the creation of drug-resistant “superbugs” that can spread to humans who work with or eat the animals.

Resistance to cephalosporin can be especially devastating because the antibiotics are regularly prescribed to humans. The antibiotics, which include brands such as Keflex and the generic cephalexin, are used to treat many illnesses, including pneumonia and salmonella infections in children…

The industry has long said the FDA does not have the science to back the ban. But Wednesday, the National Pork Producers Council said the agency’s more narrowly focused ban makes better sense. “We don’t support the need for [a ban], but we do believe that our pigs will not suffer endlessly because of it” because disease-treatment will be permitted, said Liz Wagstrom, the group’s chief veterinarian.

For more on agricultural use of antibiotics read: