US: Antibiotics and agriculture
Posted: June 30th, 2010 - 3:11pm
Source: New York Times
According to this editorial, the Food and Drug Administration is taking some long overdue but still too timid steps to rein in excessive use of antibiotics in American agriculture. For years now industrial and many smaller-scale farmers have routinely fed antibiotics to their cattle, pigs and chickens to protect them from infectious diseases but also to spur growth and weight gain while using less feed. That may be good for agricultural production, but it is almost surely bad for the public’s health.
On Monday, the F.D.A. issued a “draft guidance” on the “judicious use” of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals. The document suggested that the use of such drugs should be limited to treating or controlling infectious disease in animals or to prevent infections before an outbreak occurs. And in all of those cases, the drugs should be administered in consultation with a veterinarian whose oversight would likely restrain excessive use.
The draft guidance is a statement of principles that is open for comment and could ultimately lead to regulatory action. Past efforts to restrict agricultural antibiotics have had only limited success; the powerful agricultural lobbies usually prevail over public health advocates. We can only hope that the F.D.A. will be more successful this time.