Government May Soon Ban Agricultural Uses Of Some Antibiotics

Paul Roberts, author of The End of Food, speaks to use of antibiotics in agriculture. April 2009 Hopefully, this isn't another case of Charlie Brown and the football, where the administration announces some needed changes, only to back off


Paul Roberts, author of The End of Food, speaks to use of antibiotics in agriculture. April 2009

Hopefully, this isn't another case of Charlie Brown and the football, where the administration announces some needed changes, only to back off later when there's an uproar from industry. Because antibiotic-resistant infections are a serious health crisis:

The Obama administration must warn drug makers that the government may soon ban agricultural uses of some popular antibiotics that many scientists say encourage the proliferation of dangerous infections and imperil public health, a federal magistrate judge ruled on Thursday.

The order, issued by Judge Theodore H. Katz of the Southern District of New York, effectively restarts a process that the Food and Drug Administration began 35 years ago, but never completed, intended to prevent penicillin and tetracycline, widely used antibiotics, from losing their effectiveness in humans because of their bulk use in animal feed to promote growth in chickens, pigs and cattle.

The order comes two months after the Obama administration announced restrictions on agricultural uses of cephalosporins, a critical class of antibiotics that includes drugs like Cefzil and Keflex, which are commonly used to treat pneumonia, strep throat and skin and urinary tract infections.

Siobhan DeLancey, an F.D.A. spokeswoman, would not say whether the government planned to appeal. “We are studying the opinion and considering appropriate next steps,” she said.

In a separate move, the F.D.A. is expected to issue draft rules within days that ask drug makers to voluntarily end the use of antibiotics in animals without the oversight of a veterinarian.

[...] Environmentalists and health advocates cheered Judge Katz’s ruling, as they have largely cheered the F.D.A.’s incremental efforts to begin restricting some of the less discriminating antibiotic agricultural uses because they welcome any improvement in the decades-old issue.

The rise of superbugs that we see now was predicted by F.D.A. in the ’70s,” said Jen Sorenson, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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