Federal health officials say thousands of people are dying each year in the United States because the bacteria causing their illness is resistant to all available antibiotics; they don't work. And one major contributor to that problem is the overuse of antibiotics.
Now, the Food and Drug Administration wants to phase out the use of certain antibiotics in food-producing animals to help curb the spread to humans through the meat they eat. The FDA wants drug companies to label their drugs be used for medicinal purposes only.
"The FDA is asking for drug companies to voluntarily label some of their antibiotics for animals under the supervision of a veterinarian with the goal that it won't be used just for growth promotion and feed efficiency, that it will only be used in animals that have a documented infection and need the antibiotics," said Erica Berl of the Vt. Department of Health.
An FDA report released in April showed antibiotic-resistant bacteria in raw ground turkey and beef, pork chops and chicken. The national Animal Health Institute supports the FDA's efforts, and so, too, do public health officials.
"We support this as a step forward in reducing the level of antibacterial resistance out there," Berl said. "I think it compliments nicely what we're doing at the Health Department in trying to encourage proper use of antibiotics."
The FDA is asking animal pharmaceutical companies to notify the agency within the next three months of their intent to voluntarily make the changes recommended. They would then have three years to fully implement the changes.
Critics worry that drug companies won't fully comply with the proposal because it's voluntary. But the FDA says a mandated ban on certain antibiotics would have resulted in excessive costs and litigation.
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