Antibiotics for Farm Animals—Is the FDA Serious?

July 6, 2010
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factory farmingLast Wednesday, the FDA announced that it wanted to reduce the use of growth-promoting antibiotic drugs for meat-producing animals because it contributes to drug resistance in humans. Good intentions, perhaps—but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Our new Action Alert asks the FDA to take the next step and actually do something about the problem.

In our June 14 issue of The Pulse of Natural Health, we told you about a FDA Citizen Petition to ban the use of arsenic in animal feed. The FDA has been backtracking on that issue. The use of antibiotics in feed is a related issue.

Low doses of antibiotics are given to animals either to make them grow more quickly or so they require less feed to get to market weight. They are commonly used in animals raised for meat, such as chickens, pigs, and beef cattle. Antibiotics are also frequently used to treat sick dairy cattle, with the result that a residue may appear in milk or milk products.

Antibiotic use in animal agriculture has been linked to bacterial infections in humans which are resistant to antibiotics. Mounting evidence suggests that widespread overuse of agricultural antibiotics also may be contaminating surface waters and groundwater, including drinking water sources in many rural areas. Nonetheless, agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry are fighting hard to thwart restrictions on the use of antibiotics in agriculture.

The US Food and Drug Administration’s draft guidelines recommend gradually phasing in measures that would allow medically important antimicrobial drugs (that is, antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics) to be given to food-producing animals only if it were considered necessary for ensuring the animal’s health. And veterinary oversight would be mandated. Currently, as journalist David Kirby points out, operators can buy these pharmaceuticals by the barrelful at a feed store, without a prescription and without the supervision of a vet. According to some figures, up to 70% of all US antibiotics are given to farm animals.

FDA Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein told reporters, “This is an urgent public health issue. To preserve [the drugs’] effectiveness, we simply must use them as judiciously as possible.” If this is such an “urgent public health issue,’’ then why is this just a recommendation? Why not just ban the practice outright? The FDA has that authority, and it would bring our animal production practices closer to those found in Canada and the EU countries.

The problem is, antibiotics are always deemed necessary in CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations. It’s the standard model for large-scale food-producing-animal factory farms. These feedlots are so cramped, so filthy, and so full of harmful bacteria like MRSA (which kills more people each year than AIDS) and e-coli that without regular doses of antibiotics, none of their animals would survive. And businesses will certainly claim medical necessity, even though their real goal is to continue to use antibiotics for growth purposes.

Of course, meat producers dispute the idea that the use of antibiotics for growth or any other purpose is unsafe. National Pork Producers Council president Sam Carney says the FDA “didn’t present any science on which to base this [their proposed guidelines].”

So what’s the solution? Outside of a much-needed revolution in factory farming, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (HR 1549) lays out the best approach. It was introduced by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D–NY), the only microbiologist in Congress, and is supported by organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Center for Food Safety. This bill would ban the nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials in animals, and would ban the use of even therapeutic antimicrobials unless it can be demonstrated that there is “a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health” due to the development of antibiotic drug resistance.

The public (and industry) will have 60 days to comment on the FDA announcement, and the FDA will then use those comments to consider its next move. Please tell the FDA that you oppose the use of antibiotics in agribusiness. TAKE ACTION HERE.

Please Note: Comments left below are not delivered to the FDA. To send your message please click the “TAKE ACTION HERE” link above.

41 Responses to “Antibiotics for Farm Animals—Is the FDA Serious?”

  1. Lynn says:

    The biggest problem in my view is the general public needs to be educated. If you are not already health conscious like most of the readers here, you probably don’t even know what is going on with the farmers, or you might know, but not know the impact of it all. But when we try to educate the general public we risk being put in shackles and thrown in jail. It starts at the president’s level. He’s the one that should have the control, but big-pharma is really the one in control, and has been for many many years; and I hate to tell you, but they keep getting bigger and bigger every day. So if we ALL go out and educate the general public one at a time, and get people to realize that organic is the only way to go for our health, maybe we can get somewhere.

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  2. This is absolutely ridiculous…so what’s the catch…increased cost to pay for hormones and antibiotics?! In one breath doctors say we need to use restraint with antibiotics and next we are ingesting them daily in dairy and meats? What’s wrong with this picture? I specifically look for and buy antibiotic and hormone free foods/drinks and buy cage free organic eggs. Mankind will destroy itself if they don’t stand up and use their voice against these criminals. I will petition against it provided I can find the form on your website. Enough is enough!

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  3. Ona says:

    People, a law banning antibiotic use in the corporate feedlot and animal factory business isn’t necessary – just buy organic, produced without antibiotics and without hormones. You can make that choice yourself by choosing what you buy at the grocery store and which grocery store you choose to shop. Of course, the prices you’ll have to pay will be significantly higher, too.

    I agree that antibiotic use in agribusiness should be reserved to treat illness, but a change like this will significantly impact your wallet and everyone should be prepared to pay more than twice as much for meat as they do now. Already most cuts of meat are beyond the budget of most Americans. With a change such as this, many will be forced by economics to give up meat. If we advocate this one change in agribusiness, then we need to advocate agribusiness changes from the top down, including keeping Wall Street’s, not just Big Pharma’s, grubby greedy hands out of the meat industry.

    And let’s be careful about the terms we use. Leave out the word “farmer.” The family farmer has become a very endangered species and has been much maligned in the media, when criticism would be more aptly applied to corporate animal factories and the corporations that supply farmers and restrict farmers choices of what they can grow and raise and how they can do it. No doubt many would love to raise beef in a more wholesome way, but family farmers went out of the beef business decades ago because they lost so much money in it, some losing their farms. What we’re talking about is corporate feedlots and animal factories that use whatever means available to cut cost and time to marketable weight, so that profit is increased and CEOs get their obscene salaries and bonuses and shareholder dividends are paid.

    So make your choice at the grocery store. Be a choosy consumer. Read the labels. Be informed. Be aware that the use of antibiotics and hormones is not required to be placed on the label. Meat raised without antibiotics and without hormones will specificallly state just that on the label or state organic. Ask the store manager for it if you don’t have this wholesome kind of meat available where you shop. You don’t need a law that removes your choices, just be an informed consumer. If a significant percentage of the population, around 5% and more, restricts their purchases to organic and naturally raised meat, the market will follow.

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  4. Drina Brooke says:

    PS I absolutely agree with everybody here that these farms are immoral and a disgrace. Just looking at the photos of all the over-crowded chickens above almost put tears in my eyes, and it definitely raised a level of disgust. This has got to be stopped, and the over-use of antibiotics to cover up a bacteria-breeding environment along with it. I fully agree with that! Thank you all and thank you, Debra Ray.

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  5. Drina Brooke says:

    Hello Debra Ray
    I fully agree with your concerns about the negative health impact of widespread antibiotic use on animals and people, each alike. And the contamination of our waters surely is no small concern, and surely the mutation of bacteria is a very serious problem. We are on the same page. I have only one concern to weigh in about an outright FDA ban: That once the government or its entities begin to ban this, ban that, allow this, allow that….then we get inappropriate government control and power can potentially begin to run amok. Once the grey zones have been treaded upon, the boundaries can very quickly fade from white, to grey, to black.
    Example: Even while the health insurance matter is a very serious concern and a humanitarian need, which should be defined legally as a right and not a privilege, and even while I fully believe that each and every human being should be covered by single payer healthcare….I also just as fully believe that the government mandate over our very own pocketbooks is scary and an unprecedented power grab. I know you share that same view, and thank you for your astuteness and proactivity in this area.
    In a similar way, I think a ban of antibiotic use would have similar impact. If farmers need to treat their animals on occasion with antibiotics, a ban would mean they wouldn’ t be free to do that. If the government outright bans something, we are being censored and controlled. And control mania has a way of growing, not stopping or honoring the needs of others.
    I remain divided in my feelings about this issue, agreeing with you that antibiotic use should be toned way down in animal husbandry, and wanting to see something done about it. But then, here is also the other side of it. Spoken in true Renaissance style, “I know not what I should do”.
    I just wanted to weigh this in.
    Thank you for all your motivated and concerned work, we really appreciate you and all that you do. And you do it so well too. BEst wishes, Drina Brooke, musician, herbalist and concerned citizen

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  6. Jane Goebel says:

    I want to get anti-biotics from my doctor not a cow or chicken.

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  7. June says:

    Exactly, Juanita. This is why they’re so hell-bent on banning natural medicines & practitioners. If we can’t protect ourselves from all this poisoning, we will not live beyond our working years & they will only have to put up with us as long as we are paying taxes & supporting the government. Old age will be unheard of. I think our forefathers are surely spinning in their graves.

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  8. Juanita says:

    This is called human population control.

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  9. Andra Addis says:

    I want the FDA to immediately ban the use of antibiotics in agribusiness. By enforcing this ban, the standard model for large-scale food-producing-animal factory farms will be eliminated. These feedlots are so cramped, so filthy, and so full of harmful bacteria like MRSA (which kills more people each year than AIDS) and e-coli that without regular doses of antibiotics, none of these animals would survive. These businesses will certainly claim medical necessity, even though their real goal is to continue to use antibiotics for growth purposes. This is an urgent public health issue.

    We need to bring our animal production practices closer to those found in Canada and the EU countries.

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  10. anne perry brown says:

    Please stop allowing antibiotics in meat animals. It allows agribusiness to keep the animals in more toxic environments, and creates health risks for the end users,

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  11. Constance Mancuso says:

    I could not complete your action alert because when I went to Regulations.gov,there was no web form to fill in that I could see.

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  12. Margery Oberheide says:

    One of my sons has contracted MRSA and is dealing with the horror of having it survive his ingestion of prescriptive antibiotics several times, resurging despite all efforts. And we have heard this story repeated among our friends with children or close relatives.

    To allow the proliferation of antibiotics in farm animals (especially in lieu of good, clean, hygienic and humane care) is to foment the development of more and more drug resistant bacteria/viruses. The insanity of this policy is mind boggling.

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  13. dajad terlemezian says:

    with the ” F D A ” we don’t need al-cida

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  14. Lydia Freund says:

    You might be interested to know that people in depressed rural areas, for example parts of South Carolina where Iive, who often do not have medical insurance, are well aware that they can procure anti-biotics at a feed and seed. They do so, and they sometimes administer these to their children.

    Perhaps this is another reason: with so many people lacking health care, the human use of anti-biotics intended for animals in increasing.

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  15. Brenda Troup says:

    Forbid use of antibiotic in healthy food animals! Many too many diseases are becoming resistant because to the use.
    And taking arsenic out of food animals is a no brainer. Why hasn’t it been done long since??

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  16. Lee Winslow says:

    Just recommending that antibiotics are not used in the animals we eat is just not enough. What about all the people like myself, that are allergic to an antibiotic? Most people cannot raise their own meat. I have to take probiotics because the antibiotics in meat mess up my digestive system.

    Antibiotics should be banned in the raising of our meat animals and fowl.

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  17. Bill Smith says:

    I tried to send mail to opposethe use of antibotics in agribusiness.
    Used your instructions to send info to Oklahoma congressman-their form never poped up??

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  18. Donna Travis says:

    I am very concerned in the use of antibiotics in feed animals. I have had MRSA infection 3 years ago and had to use the strongest IV antibiotics to defeat the infection. There are superbugs are evolving where the old antibiotics will be worthless. We must stop and curtail use in these type of situations but only if the animals are sick. For us to intake by meals is creating more problems than it is worth. Pharmaceutical companies must stop pushing farmers and factory feedlots to force tainted food supplies.

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  19. Why are there so many autistic and ADHD kids ? I believe it is in part that the parents are getting all of these manioulated not organic things to eat !!

       1 likes

  20. DHFabian says:

    Based on my experience, I would say it’s simply not feasible to run a veal barn or large-scale operation without use of antibiotics, not only in treatment, but to prevent the spread of disease. A single disease can wipe out most of a herd.

    It would be best to get rid of feedlots, but I can’t see that happening. Individual farmers have largely been forced out by huge “factory farms”. It would take a tremendous amount of money to go into farming today. People need food, and prices are kept high by exporting much of what the US produces; they would be even higher without our factory farms. I think what we would need is a complete overhaul of our agricultural system, and that would be a massive undertaking that few (if any) would want to tackle.

    This is a profoundly complex issue, and it would be in the best interests of the country to put our best minds to work on finding some realistic solutions.

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  21. Karin Rada says:

    The problem is the Mega farms. When you put thousands of animals in close quarters, you will breed disease. Animals should be allowed to roam free and chickens should be allowed to go outside to get some daylight. It is no wonder that we have swine and bird flu and Mad Cow disease.

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  22. frances schuster says:

    no antibiotics for farm animals. If we raise our animals with diginity they won’t need them and we sure don’t need them in our meat.

       1 likes

  23. Michael Carpenter says:

    The Pharm. Co.’s will pay well to keep it going.

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  24. Michael Carpenter says:

    The Pharm. Co.’s will grease their to keep it going!!

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  25. Marcia Petty says:

    The problem is the feed lots. I’ve driven by them. You can smell the for miles. They are torture chambers for the animals and should be considered inhumane and immoral. There has to be another way for human beings to raise animals for food that is not driven my mega-corporation like farmers. This industry is a disgrace.

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  26. christine says:

    For decades they have blamed the ineffectiveness of anti-biotics on doctors over prescribing them for patients. The truth maybe more about greed and abuse of animals.

       1 likes

  27. Gabrielle Menendez says:

    We are already endangering ourselves with the amount of indiscriminate antibiotic use. Farm animals should have better living conditions so that such drugging is not necessary to begin with. It starts with good farming practices.

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  28. Gail says:

    I think MRSA, C-Diff, VRE, and other superbugs were created in a lab, just the H1N1 virus. No one has shown me proof that these bacterias have mutated from a specific bacteria. I truly believe that. I had to fight like hell to get my father the antibiotics he needed. We use silver, golden seal, and many other natural things, because he got colonated with MRSA from a hospital. The last test he had, it was negative, which is a good thing. We all can pick up MRSA, C-Diff, and VRE, and I am watching people being denied antibiotics, and they are dying from not receiving proper medical care. I want to see scientific proof that these superbugs are caused from use of antibiotics, because I think Ebola, MRSA, C-Diff, VRE and other superbugs and viruses have been created to depopulate the earth. Call me a Conspiracy Theorist, because that is okay, but the hand writing is on the wall. The chemicals they put in the soil that goes into our food and all the other poisons and toxins, hormones in the feed, which goes into the meat and causes us cancer, we do not have chance. If people do not wake up to what is going on, and start speaking out, we will not live very long. Then there are the vaccines with cancer causing DNA and chemicals, and that is an entire other issue,. The drugs they put on the market are killing us and damaging our organs. I just do not understand how people cannot add up the facts to what is going on.

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  29. SANDI says:

    You are kidding, I hope.
    All I can say is that this is such an old issue I don’t know why we are dealing with it.
    One more time, Leave my food alone!
    What will it take for the FDA to stop being stupid. Why not make the FDA take Antibiotics, since they are dealing with the American population.

    When will the abuse stop for these animals….I took action in my own life and quit eating
    animals…..I don’t want animals to be abused so I can eat.
    Sandi

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  30. elliott says:

    for people pets and planet…. get big pHARMA out…

       0 likes

  31. Keith Huxoll says:

    When it comes to both animals and humans, antibiotics should be used sparingly; however, that would be for the best interest of the general public. It’s a crying shame that the FDA doesn’t care about the health and well-being of the people enough because if they did antibiotic use in animals would be closely monitored and only given when absolutely necessary rather than to bloat the wallet of the big farmers who run these factory farms.

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  32. Roger Dedon says:

    Please preserve the use of antibiotics for Medical use only.

       1 likes

  33. jewel says:

    This is outrageous. Recommend SH….. Do somthing. Do your job. If you cant, we need an agency who will look out for our best interests and your not it.

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  34. mona dworkin says:

    It is disturbing that the FDA does not recognize the danger with using antibiotics with farm animals. If the animal is getting them- those eating the animal are sure to ingest the antibiotics as well.

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  35. Melissa Nunes says:

    I stopped eating meat some time ago because of the presence of antibiotics in food given to chickens, cows and pigs. If enough people just don’t buy the product, the factory farms will get the message.

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    • Ann F says:

      …one would hope Melissa that the factory farms would get the message. However, there are not enough of us our there like you and me that have chosen to stop eating what we know is contaminated. The numbers of people that are not informed is what fuels industry. I still have doctors and health practitioners (most recently my DOM., AP) that I would expect to know better tell me that I have to eat meat in order to be healthy. Unfortunately when a health practitioner tells me I have to eat meat I loose faith in their knowledge as my consultant. I have to be careful not to through the baby out with the bathwater.

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  36. Vinayak says:

    I oppose the use of antibiotics in agribusiness……….Please stop this now…………..

       0 likes

  37. Bonnie Richards says:

    I can see no reason why the agency that is purportedly set up to protect the people would not intervene and require thee harmful (profit driven) practices to cease. How high do cancer rates have to climb before you put a stop to profit driven activities including the use of hormones and antibiotics in meat. Please stop it now!

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    • moonfae says:

      Bonnie, The FDA in in cahoots with the large pharmaceutical companies. They want you to take prescription drugs to keep that industry making its mega-profits. They want you to have cancer. If you get cancer, you need to take the really expensive pharmaceuticals! If we cure cancer, what will all these pharma companies make money from?

      The pharmaceutical companies also control the agencies that decide on “health limits” such as your ideal cholesterol level. That way they can get more and more people put onto these “maintenance” drugs and have a built-in demand for statins! They do not tell you that statin drugs have been proven to be ineffective in preventing heart attacks, and they do cause kidney and liver damage with long-term use. (Listen to the advertisement for Lipitor and the warning about getting your liver checked regularly!)

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    • I was a farmer for twenty years. Raising Hogs, Vegetables, and
      Chicken organically. I am a hoof trimmer by trade. keeping
      production dairy cown on their feet.
      If anyone has the opportunity to see what has happend to our
      agriculture, you need only find a large dairy farm in your state
      and look. It will cause you to look for small farmers as close
      to home as you can. and get all you can to take home with
      you to assure the value of the food you consume.
      American farmers have lost their way as a result of big Ag.
      if you noticed, the quest for money has become agony for
      generations of American farmers. A result of Genetically
      Engineered Food. We are feeding this food to livestock
      who are in turn feeding us. Where to these genetics come
      from? I retired 20 years ago, and back then, pharmaceuticals
      were almost too sophisticated to detect then.
      Some antibiotics went undetected. Please remember that the
      ignorance that allows this to continue is greed, and over
      extending the ambition to have more money just to stay in
      the game. The statted floors in hog operations allow desease
      to be communicated like wildfire. The 30 days slaughter
      animals have befor their demise is not nearly long enough.
      remember, certified organic meat and vegetables is the only
      food to feed you faimly. Verne G. Williams

         0 likes

  38. vivian says:

    This is just a joke. The FDA should be banned from having a say on any of our drugs or food. Their intrests our obviously not with the people of the US. The truth is coming out slowly but surely .. and soon, as they stand now, they will be a thing of the past. Good idea gone corrupt by greed.

       0 likes

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