Excerpted from the San Jose Mercury News.
The Food and Drug Administration's gutless approach to antibiotic use in food animals is a disgrace. It's only a matter of time before the policy makes routine infections in people difficult or impossible for doctors to treat. Scientists have been begging the FDA for three decades to ban or severely reduce farmers' use of penicillins and tetracyclines in animal feed to stimulate growth. The American Medical Association and the Union of Concerned Scientists agree that antibiotics in animals consumed by humans dramatically reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics used by people.
The Obama administration should have followed the lead of the European Union and banned antibiotic use by ranchers for healthy animals. The FDA instead continues to put the profits of the meat industry over the health of Americans.
After an outcry from scientists in 2011, the FDA's only concession was to formally ask pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily reduce sales of antibiotics for use in food animals. The results were predictable. The FDA revealed last week that sales of the two most commonly used antibiotics in livestock and poultry increased for the second consecutive year.
A Centers for Disease Control-sponsored study showed that antibiotic-resistant infections cost Americans in excess of $20 billion every year. Several studies also indicate that overuse of antibiotics in animals is leading to more dangerous forms of Salmonella, E coli, and urinary tract and blood infections. They fear the development of some new form of infection that won't respond to known drugs.