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FDA to Curb Use of Antibiotics In Animal Production

WASHINGTON, DC -- Over fears for antibiotic resistance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Wednesday announced a plan to phase out antibiotics and other medically important antimicrobial medications in animal foods for production purposes.
The fewer antibiotics we use in our foods, the better it is for us
WASHINGTON, DC -- Over fears for antibiotic resistance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Wednesday announced a plan to phase out antibiotics and other medically important antimicrobial medications in animal foods for production purposes.

These medications are often used in feed or water given to cattle, poultry, hogs and other animals to fatten them up and keep them healthy in crowded barns.

But, some of these medications are important for treating infectious diseases in humans, and some once-treatable ailments are longer responding to antibiotics.

Government researchers in September warned antibiotic-resistant germs kill 23,000 people each year.

For decades farmers have added antibiotics to animal feed to stimulate growth in poultry, cattle, and pigs.  But the antibiotics have been overused, and bacteria in the animals have become resistant to the drugs.  Eventually, these resistant bacteria come into contact with humans. 

The FDA's mandate would eliminate over the counter use of antibiotics for the main purpose of boosting growth in healthy animals. Antibiotics could only be used to treat or prevent disease and must be prescribed by a veterinarian. 

One consumer advocacy group estimates 80 percent of all antibiotics in this country are used in farm animals.

Dr. William Schaffner is an infectious disease specialist with Vanderbilt University.
"The fewer antibiotics we use in our foods, the better it is for us, because we infectious disease doctors are having a harder and harder time treating patients with important infections," Schaffner says.

The program is voluntary. The two main companies that produce animal feed that incorporates antibiotics have agreed to comply with the new program.

 Doctor Michael Taylor is Deputy Commissioner of the FDA.  "It's really focusing on those antibiotics that are important in human medicine asnd reducing the liekelihood that the disease causing bacteria become resistant to these antibiotics and therefore are no longer effective in treatiung people," Taylor says.

The FDA said it expects the meat producers to comply. In a statement,  The National Pork Producers Council said, "We expect that hog farmers, and the federally inspected feed mills they purchase feed from, will follow the law."


(Dr. John LaPook, CBS News)


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