FDA Proposes New Regulations on Livestock Antibiotics To Test for Resistent Strains of Bacteria
The FDA yesterday proposed regulations that would require testing of newly developed livestock antibiotics to determine if such medications could produce bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics used in humans, the Wall Street Journal reports. Under current guidelines, the "biggest safety hurdle" livestock drug makers face is showing that their products do not leave dangerous residue in meat. The Journal reports that more than 20 million pounds of antibiotics are administered each year to U.S. farm animals -- including cattle, pigs and chickens -- and the drugs are often given without a prescription to healthy animals "solely as a preventive measure." The FDA said it also plans to reevaluate all livestock products currently in use. The agency said it would evaluate antibiotics on a "sliding scale" and rather than withdraw a product completely, would require that it be available only with a prescription or be administered only to a sick animal. It is "far from clear" what effect such regulations would have on the U.S. meat supply, the Journal reports, and the FDA is collecting public comment on the proposal for 75 days.
Although some consumer and environmental advocacy groups, such as Environmental Defense, "praised" the proposal, the livestock industry questioned its potential benefit. The Animal Health Institute, which represents animal drug makers, said the policy would "make it very difficult for new antibiotic products to be approved, thus creating new animal health and food-safety risks while not adding to public health" (Kilman, Wall Street Journal, 9/12). In addition to the FDA's proposal, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have proposed legislation that would restrict the use of some livestock antibiotics (Gersema, AP/Long Island Newsday, 9/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.