Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Court Orders FDA to Address Antibiotic Overuse in Livestock

Court Orders FDA to Address Antibiotic Overuse in Livestock

Natural Resources Defense Council

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must act to address the growing human health threats resulting from the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed, according to a federal court ruling issued the evening of March 22. The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), Public Citizen and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) last year.

“For over 35 years, FDA has sat idly on the sidelines largely letting the livestock industry police itself,” said Avinash Kar, NRDC health attorney. “In that time, the overuse of antibiotics in healthy animals has skyrocketed—contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that endanger human health. Today, we take a long overdue step toward ensuring that we preserve these life-saving medicines for those who need them most—people.

“These drugs are intended to cure disease, not fatten pigs and chickens,” Kar said.

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 laws requiring that the agency move on its findings, FDA failed to take action on penicillin and tetracyclines to protect human health for the last 35 years.

The court decision noted, “In the intervening years, the scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown.”

“This health threat has been hiding in the margins for four decades. The rise of superbugs that we see now was predicted by FDA in the 70’s,” said NRDC attorney Jen Sorenson. “Thanks to the Court’s order, drug manufacturers will finally have to do what FDA should have made them do 35 years ago—prove that their drugs are safe for human health, or take them off the market.”

The ruling compels FDA 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 are safe. The ruling also makes clear that future nonbinding guidance from FDA will not excuse the Agency from its obligation to hold hearings on whether to withdraw approval for antibiotics covered by the decision.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, approximately 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to healthy farm animals at low doses to promote faster growth and compensate for unsanitary living conditions—a practice that has increased over the past 60 years despite evidence that it breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria dangerous to humans. The antibiotics, mixed into feed or water for pigs, cows, chicken, and turkeys, are used at levels too low to treat disease, leaving surviving bacteria stronger and resistant to medical treatment.

The Court noted the issue in its decision: “Research has shown that the use of antibiotics in livestock leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be—and has been—transferred from animals to humans through direct contact, environmental exposure, and the consumption and handling of contaminated meat and poultry products.”

“Judge Katz’s decision is an important advance toward our goal of preserving the effectiveness of medically important antibiotics and not squandering them with reckless overuse on animal farms,” said CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson. “Improving conditions for chickens, hogs and cattle would help obviate the reason these drugs have been so over-administered in the first place.”

In recent years, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the World Health Organization and many other groups have identified the routine use of low-dose antibiotics for livestock growth promotion as a significant contributor to the rapid proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in both animals and humans.

“After decades of delay, the FDA will finally have to address this long-standing threat to the public,” said Richard Wood, executive director for FACT. “This is a great victory for public health and a great chance to make American farms move in a more healthy direction.”

Briefing on NRDC’s second claim in the lawsuit, which asks for FDA to rule on two citizen petitions, will be completed on April 16.

For more information on this lawsuit and antibiotics in animal feed:

For more information, click here.

Former U.S. Sec. of Energy Ernest Moniz listens during the National Clean Energy Summit 9.0 on October 13, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Isaac Brekken / Getty Images for National Clean Energy Summit

By Jake Johnson

Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate change can evoke intense feelings, but a conversational approach can help. Reed Kaestner / Getty Images

Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.

"It's easy to feel dwarfed in the context of such a global systemic issue," says psychologist Renée Lertzman.

She says that when people experience these feelings, they often shut down and push information away. So to encourage climate action, she advises not bombarding people with frightening facts.

"When we lead with information, we are actually unwittingly walking right into a situation that is set up to undermine our efforts," she says.

She says if you want to engage people on the topic, take a compassionate approach. Ask people what they know and want to learn. Then have a conversation.

This conversational approach may seem at odds with the urgency of the issue, but Lertzman says it can get results faster.

"When we take a compassion-based approach, we are actively disarming defenses so that people are actually more willing and able to respond and engage quicker," she says. "And we don't have time right now to mess around, and so I do actually come to this topic with a sense of urgency… We do not have time to not take this approach."

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

Trending

A rare North Atlantic right whale is seen off Cape Cod Bay on April 14, 2019 near Provincetown, Massachusetts. Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images

An extremely rare North Atlantic right whale calf was found dead off the North Carolina coast on Friday.

Read More Show Less
Sprinklers irrigate a field of onions near a Castilian village in Spain. According to a new study, the average farm size in the EU has almost doubled since the 1960s. miguelangelortega / Moment / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

A new report released Tuesday details the "shocking" state of global land equality, saying the problem is worse than thought, rising, and "cannot be ignored."

Read More Show Less
Members of the San Carlos Apache Nation protest to protect parts of Oak Flat from a copper mining company on July 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

In yet another attack on the environment before leaving office, the Trump administration is seeking to transfer ownership of San Carlos Apache holy ground in Oak Flat, Arizona, to a copper mining company.

Read More Show Less