Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Sales of Antibiotics for Livestock Surges Despite Industry Pledges to Cut Back

Food

By David Wallinga

Scientists and regulators have sounded the alarm linking the overuse of antibiotics in livestock production with helping to increase the creation and spread of antibiotic resistant infections. Three years ago, as a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a voluntary program seeking to curb some livestock drug uses. But the widespread use of these antibiotics seems to continue as before.

On Thursday, the latest FDA figures on antibiotics sold for use in meat and poultry production came out. The news is not good. Sales just keep rising. Against the backdrop of a crisis in now untreatable or nearly untreatable infections, this report further underscores how urgently we need more and stronger government action to address the ongoing overuse of the drugs in livestock.

Sales of medically important antibiotics—including penicillins, cephalosporins, tetracyclines and erythromycins, to name a few—for livestock were up 2 percent over 2014, and up 26 percent overall from 2009 through 2015. An overwhelming 95 percent of human antibiotics were sold as additives to animal feed and drinking water—routes of delivery that are typical of growth promotion or disease prevention.

More than 21.3 million pounds of medically-important drugs were sold for use in livestock last year. By comparison, the FDA reports that in 2011 (the last year for which it has such data, apparently) a bit more than 7.2 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use in human medicine. In other words, just under 70 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the U.S. are sold for use in animals, not people. In 2015, 97 percent of all medically important antibiotic sales for livestock or poultry were over-the-counter, meaning they were sold without a prescription and typically without any oversight by a veterinarian.

It remains unclear how effective FDA's current voluntary efforts will be to reduce the routine use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production. While livestock antibiotics will no longer carry a label that says they can be used for growth promotion, many of these same products will continue to be approved for routine use in the same manner and similar dosages for the purpose of disease prevention. The pharmaceutical industry has consistently claimed that "growth promotion" constitutes no more than 10 percent of antibiotic use in livestock and poultry. The Natural Resources Defense Council believes that the use of antibiotics in animal feed or water under a "disease prevention" claim constitutes the vast majority of all antibiotic use.

Two million Americans already suffer from drug-resistant infections every year and more than 23,000 die as a result, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. My New Year's resolution would be for antibiotics to be used differently in the future, especially in livestock production. One might have thought sales figures would already be dropping, since every food animal sector claims they're using fewer antibiotics and only when medically justified. But the FDA's actual data suggest otherwise.

David Wallinga is the senior health officer at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Oregano oil is an extract that is not as strong as the essential oil, but appears to be useful both when consumed or applied to the skin. Peakpx / CC by 1.0

By Alexandra Rowles

Oregano is a fragrant herb that's best known as an ingredient in Italian food.

However, it can also be concentrated into an essential oil that's loaded with antioxidants and powerful compounds that have proven health benefits.

Read More Show Less
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meets Ronaldo Caiado, governor of the state of Goiás on June 5, 2020. Palácio do Planalto / CC BY 2.0

Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has presided over the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak after the U.S., said Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus.

Read More Show Less
Although natural gas produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, it is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Skitterphoto / PIxabay

By Emily Grubert

Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved two Lysol products as the first to effectively kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces, based on laboratory testing. Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a list of 431 products that are effective at killing viruses when they are on surfaces. Now, a good year for Lysol manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser just got better when the EPA said that two Lysol products are among the products that can kill the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveils the Green New Deal resolution in front of the U.S. Capitol on February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Judith Lewis Mernit

For all its posturing on climate change, the Democratic Party has long been weak on the actual policies we need to save us from extinction. President Barack Obama promised his presidency would mark "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow," and then embraced natural gas, a major driver of global temperature rise, as a "bridge fuel." Climate legislation passed in the House in 2009 would have allowed industries to buy credits to pollute, a practice known to concentrate toxic air in black and brown neighborhoods while doing little to cut emissions.

Read More Show Less
About 30,000 claims contending that Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are currently unsettled. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Bayer's $10 billion settlement to put an end to roughly 125,000 lawsuits against its popular weed killer Roundup, which contains glyphosate, hit a snag this week when a federal judge in San Francisco expressed skepticism over what rights future plaintiffs would have, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hundreds of sudden elephant deaths in Botswana aren't just a loss for the ecosystem and global conservation efforts. Mario Micklisch / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Charli Shield

When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.

Read More Show Less