Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

FDA Voluntary Approach to Curb Antibiotic Overuse on Factory Farms is 'Just Window Dressing'

Food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a progress report this week on its voluntary approach to reducing the use of antibiotics in farm animals, which relies on collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). 

Advocacy groups said the FDA needs to go even further to curb animal antibiotics abuse, including limiting companies that use them for disease prevention when confining animals in crowded conditions. Photo credit: Organic Fitness

The news appeared to be encouraging as the FDA announced 25 major pharmaceutical companies had agreed to voluntarily phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in animals processed for meat.

However, the NRDC publicly voiced its concerns saying the partnership won't do enough to curb antibiotics overuse or stem the spread of antibiotic-resistant germs known as "superbugs."

“There is still no evidence that the FDA’s voluntary plan will do anything to limit the increase in the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that endanger all of us," said NRDC attorney Avinash Kar. "Animals will still be fed antibiotics daily even though they aren’t sick. While it’s good to see FDA and corporations coming to the table on this, their solution doesn’t cut it. Fixing the problem means curbing the misuse of these drugs. This plan is likely to lead to label changes, not a reduction in use."

Kar explained that the FDA guidance does nothing to limit the routine use of antibiotics to compensate for crowded conditions.

“The FDA is just limiting antibiotic use for growth promotion, but the same animals are given the same antibiotics because of the crowded conditions," he said. "Current levels of antibiotic use are likely to continue, but just with a different justification and label. That won’t do anything to protect human health. The bacteria don’t care about the justifications.”

“We don’t add antibiotics to the cereal of kids to prevent diseases in daycare centers, and we shouldn’t be doing this with animals. FDA needs to dramatically reduce antibiotic use in animals. Until that happens, the rest is just window dressing.”

As it stands, about 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are for use in cows, chickens, pigs and other farm animals. 

Specific weaknesses in the FDA's Guidance 213 implementation plan include:

  • The plan relies on corporate goodwill to voluntarily eliminate growth promotion uses of antibiotics. Companies that have signed up to participate could still drop out at any point.
  • It fails to address the larger problem of reliance on these drugs to compensate for crowded conditions in lieu of healthier management practices. Antibiotics are often used to compensate for crowding, poor sanitation and stress, among other factors that increase disease risk.
  • As a result, antibiotic use in the feed of animals could continue unabated. In fact, several of the drug companies participating in the FDA’s program have said they don’t expect the guidance to affect their revenues.

“We are dismayed to discover that the FDA’s voluntary guidance will do even less than we thought in slowing down the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The public health community has been fighting for more than 30 years to get the FDA to do something about this public health crisis and a loophole like this is too serious to be ignored.”

According to a 2013 National Centers for Disease Control report, antibiotic-resistant infections sicken at least 2 million Americans per year and kill more than 23,000.

The Associated Press reports the biggest risk to people are germs spread in hospitals, and it's not clear how much of the problem is related to the use of drugs in animals that become meat. Regardless, the FDA contends this is one step toward addressing the problem.

--------

Related Content:

 

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less
Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less
National Trails Day 2020 is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. The American Hiking Society is seeking to amplify Black voices in the outdoor community and advocate for equal access to the outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous people from the Parque das Tribos community mourn the death of Chief Messias of the Kokama tribe from Covid-19, in Manaus, Brazil, on May 14, 2020. MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP / Getty Images

By John Letzing

This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."

Read More Show Less
World Environment Day was put into motion almost fifty years ago by the United Nations as a response to a multitude of environmental threats. RicardoImagen / Getty Images

It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Experts are worried that COVID-19, a primarily respiratory and airway disease, could have permanent effects on lungs, inhibiting the ability for divers to continue diving. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels

Scuba divers around the world are holding their metaphorical breath to see if a coronavirus infection affects the ability to dive.

Read More Show Less