Since 1977, the Food and Drug Administration has had on hold its proposal to withdraw approval of putting penicillin and tetracycline in animal feed. They’ve said that they would hold hearings. But Congress had to research it – so you know what that means. Nothing was being done and now even more nothing is being done as Maryn McKenna reports in Wired Science.
For 34 years, the FDA has been contending that administering small doses of antibiotics to healthy animals is an inappropriate use of increasingly scarce drugs — a position in which it is supported by organizations as mainstream as the American Medical Association. With this withdrawal, it backs away from the actions it took to support that assertion — which may indicate there will be no further government action on the issue until after the 2012 election.
In the Federal Register, the FDA says that it plans instead to “focus its efforts for now on the potential for voluntary reform and the promotion of the judicious use of antimicrobials in the interest of public health.” That’s a reference to a draft guidance that the FDA put forward in the summer of 2010, which proposes that large-scale agriculture voluntarily stop using those “subtherapeutic” small doses, and also stop giving any antibiotic doses to animals unless veterinarians prescribe them.
If you don’t see why this is cause for concern, simply read Mark Bittman who writes on food and all things related for the New York Times. His Dec. 27 column tells it like it is and it is an ugly picture that features real illness and harm to human health.
A study earlier this year by a nonprofit research center in Phoenix analyzed 80 brands of beef, pork, chicken and turkey from five cities and found that 47 percent contained staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can cause anything from minor skin infections to pneumonia and sepsis, more technically called systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), and commonly known as blood poisoning — but no matter what you call it, plenty scary. Of those bacteria, 52 percent were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics. So when you go to the supermarket to buy one of these brands of pre-ground meat products, there’s a roughly 25 percent chance you’ll consume a potentially fatal bacteria that doesn’t respond to commonly prescribed drugs.
I don’t know about you but this makes my stomach turn and you can be sure that I won’t be feeding this meat and poultry to my kids.
The FDA in its Federal Register posting says that it is taking public comment on this issue. That docket number is FDA-2010-D-0094-0002, and the form for submitting comments is here.
Let’s start 2012 right by letting them know that moms and dads everywhere have had it with government inaction. Write them and let them know that you demand that the FDA and White House protect human health by making a commitment to address the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production. And while you are at it, drum up support for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act with your Congressional rep.