A federal court has ruled the FDA must address antibiotic overuse in animal feed. That decision came last night in a lawsuit filed by public interest groups including Public Citizen. "It is unfortunate that FDA has dragged its feet for so long on this issue, but we are pleased that the Court has ordered FDA finally to do its job," said Michael Kirkpatrick, a Public Citizen attorney.
The controversy dates back to 1977 when the FDA determined that the practice of fattening up animals by feeding them antibiotics used in human medicine, such as penicillin, could promote resistant bacteria in people. Yet the FDA has never moved to take action on its own findings, according to another plaintiff in the lawsuit, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The NRDC says 70 percent of antibiotics used in the US are fed in low doses to healthy farm animals, such as pigs, cows, chicken and turkeys, "to promote faster growth and compensate for unsanitary living conditions."
The court's ruling
compels the FDA to withdraw approval for most non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in animal feed unless, in public hearings, the drug use in animals is proven safe for humans. In its decision, the court stated: "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."