Superbug Lawsuit: Court Orders FDA to Do Its Job—After a 35-Year Delay!

March 27, 2012
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This week a judge told FDA to reverse course regarding antibiotic overuse in livestock and protect the effectiveness of the medicine for humans. Action Alert!

For the past 35 years the FDA has supposedly been reviewing the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed when in fact the agency was simply sitting on its hands. Then, last December, the agency caved to pressure and quietly withdrew any attempt to require the removal of antibiotics from animal feed.

The public was outraged, and a coalition of nonprofit organizations sued FDA to force the agency to reconsider and withdraw approval for most non-therapeutic uses of penicillin and tetracycline in animal feed, unless drug makers can prove in public hearings that the drugs do not harm human health when used this way. The lawsuit was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animals Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

On March 23, a federal court ruled in their favor!

Back in 1977, FDA concluded that feeding animals low doses of certain antibiotics used in human medicine, namely, penicillin and tetracyclines, could promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria capable of infecting people. Despite this conclusion—and in direct violation of laws requiring that the agency move on its findings—FDA failed to take action for the next 35 years.

“For over 35 years, FDA has sat idly on the sidelines,” said Avinash Kar, a health attorney for the NRDC. “In that time, the overuse of antibiotics in healthy animals has skyrocketed—contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that endanger human health….These drugs are intended to cure disease, not fatten pigs and chickens.”

As we reported in January, the so-called “preventive” use of antibiotics in livestock is routine and widespread—80% of all antibiotics sold in US go into farm animal feed. Factory farms use them to ward off illness in animals that are kept in overcrowded, filthy living conditions, which are a perfect environment for the spread of illness. These antibiotics are also used to promote increased growth in animals.

However, antibiotics given to animals are transferred to humans through direct contact, environmental exposure, and the consumption and handling of contaminated meat and poultry products—making humans vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which are now a global problem. Moreover, a study found that up to half of US meat was contaminated with antibiotic-resistant staph.

If FDA truly wanted to focus on food safety, it would address the filthy, toxic factory farm conditions rather than allowing healthy animals to be fed antibiotics preemptively.

Big Farma stridently opposes legislative and regulatory attempts to curtail antibiotic usage, making the absurd claim that the science is still inconclusive. So to avoid antagonizing Big Pharma and Big Farma on antibiotics, FDA’s has been issuing voluntary compliance standards. For example, in 2010 FDA issued a draft guidance proposing that farmers voluntarily stop the use of low-dose antibiotics in farms animals.

Now, as a result of the lawsuit, FDA is forced to take action on its own safety findings by withdrawing approval for most non-therapeutic uses of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed, unless the industry can prove in public hearings that those drug uses do not affect human health. The judge also ruled that FDA must warn drug makers that the government may soon ban the agricultural use of antibiotics for animals that are not sick.

FDA is expected in the next few days to issue draft rules that ask drug manufacturers to voluntarily end the use of antibiotics in animals without the oversight of a veterinarian. But this is not good enough! Please write to FDA today, and tell the agency to stop creating ineffective “window dressing” standards, and finally complete the process they started 35 years ago. Tell them to withdraw approval of non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in animal feed immediately, as ordered by the court. Take action immediately!

Take Action!

11 Responses to “Superbug Lawsuit: Court Orders FDA to Do Its Job—After a 35-Year Delay!”

  1. Ro says:

    I don’t eat conventional beef, chicken, or pork which are contaminated with antibiotics, and fed GMO corn, soybeans, etc. I spend a little more and only buy Organic.

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  2. E says:

    The matter is really quite simple. This is a FEDERAL judge dealing with a FEDERAL agency. If the agency refuses to follow his or her orders the judge simply writes an order to Office of Personnel Management and the offending employee is terminated for failure to follow a lawful order. This person will never be hired by the feds again and will lose ALL accrued benefits including the pension. The judge simply needs to get tough!

       1 likes

    • E says:

      Oops almost forgot, there is due process so the offending employee can sue, also in federal court, to prove their dismissal was not in accordance with the law and they truly did nothing to deserve to be fired and that the judge was plain wrong in terminating them. At which point they get back everything, back-pay & pension included.
      This would prove interesting as these cases would then become part of the public record.

         0 likes

  3. shorebird says:

    At least one scary story is told in the movie “Fresh”, most notable is a formerly “industrial” high density pig farmer describing being gored by a pig. Sorry I do not remember this farmer’s name. He ended up with a swollen leg and a strain of bacteria that no standard antibiotic could kill…finally went to a major medical center and a new drug trial that was still in testing finally rid him of that bacteria.
    Can you imagine going back to your farm knowing you or any of your helpers could get this bacteria again?? The farmer related that he sacrificed his herd and started over again, using a much lower pig density, way more variety to his farming practice, few walls or confinements, and meat with far superior results.
    This lesson is long overdue. Recommend watching “Fresh” for this and other stories about reversing the trend towards high density animal husbandry.

       0 likes

  4. janeto says:

    “contaminated with antibiotic-resistant staph”, what about the anti-biotic markers used in GMO feed? Has anyone researched the affects of this feed on animals, the environment or humans? I have yet to see anything in this regard, however, meat having such high amounts of contaminated with antibiotic-resistant staph seems like my assessment may have merit.

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  5. These antibiotics are a GOOD example of the FDA’s messing up our foods.
    It don’t just stop there. They are doing the same with our grains as well.

       0 likes

  6. Andrew Charnley Ex UK Pat living in Trinidad & Tobago says:

    You stated “The lawsuit was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animals Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists”. And, “On March 23, a federal court ruled in their favor”!

    I am confused. Why is this court ruling not sanctioned and then enforced when it is not obeyed. Is the law truly an ass and in this case you have to bring another lawsuit adfinitum..?

       0 likes

  7. David E. Will says:

    Environment, host and pathogen. These three are intertwined. If the host is healthy, but the environment is bad the pathogen can survive and infect the host. If the host is isolated from the pathogen the pathogen has no way to infect the host. The pathogen will always be with us so we can improve the health of the host and do our best to clean up the environment, so the pathogen will have no way to grow. When we work within the laws of nature, and only treat the host when the pathogen infects the host, we contain the pathogen and keep the environment healthy. Using antibiotics regularly, infects the host, the environment and as we have seen, gives rise to the pathogen on levels never seen before. Why can’t we study the way nature works and quit fighting these natural laws. Nature always wins. Allow nature to find the balance.

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  8. Linda says:

    NO! NO! NO! I should be able to treat MY OWN PERSONAL animals without having to go through a damned veterinarian. You think you are doing good but you are just screwing over those of us who take care of our own animals without getting ripped off by veterinarians. I only use antibiotics when I absolutely need them which is very, very rarely. However, when I need to use them, I should be able to get them without going through a vet. This is another case of everyone being punished for the wrongdoing of others and I am freaking sick and tired of it!!!!

       0 likes

    • Linda says:

      By the way, you rant and rave about the FDA keeping us from using natural cures and treatments then tell us that it is a good thing when the FDA wants to keep us from using man made or produced antibiotics. How hypocritical!

         0 likes

  9. Robert Wolfe says:

    The recent epidemic of Lyme disease, and other diseases which are but misdiagnosed Lyme, is directly related to our feeding the waste from antibiotic production to the poultry which produce the eggs that bacteria for many vaccines are grown on. Giving some of these antibiotics forces the infective bacteria that are in the poultry to assume a mycoplasmal, cell wall deficient form, which are then transmitted to the fertilized eggs. When bacteria are grown on said eggs, the mycoplasmas can infect the bacteria. A mycoplasma inside a bacteria might not die with the bacteria when they are killed to make the vaccine. Once injected inside a human, the mycoplasma could get free to infect that person. A very good way to evade our immune systems which would normally stop infection by these poultry diseases. This is why many have Lyme, and its coinfections, but have never been bitten by a tick.

       0 likes

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