The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it is taking three steps to “protect public health and promote” the judicious use of antibiotics in food animals. The new steps will give veterinarians greater oversight of antibiotic use in cattle, hogs and poultry and phase out antibiotics for growth promotion. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said, “It is critical that we take action to protect public health. The new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective. We are also reaching out to animal producers who operate on a smaller scale or in remote locations to help ensure the drugs they need to protect the health of their animals are still available.” The steps taken by FDA were published in three documents:
· A final guidance for industry, The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals, that recommends phasing out the agricultural production use of medically important drugs and phasing in veterinary oversight of therapeutic uses of these drugs.
· A draft guidance, open for public comment, which will assist drug companies in voluntarily removing production uses of antibiotics from their FDA-approved product labels; adding, where appropriate, scientifically-supported disease prevention, control and treatment uses; and changing the marketing status to include veterinary oversight.
· A draft proposed Veterinary Feed Directive regulation, open for public comment, that outlines ways that veterinarians can authorize the use of certain animal drugs in feed, which is important to make the needed veterinary oversight feasible and efficient.
There were mixed reviews from industry and producer groups. The Animal Health Institute (AHI) said, “The animal health industry supports the process designed to protect the health of animals and ultimately public health, while preserving animal care tools for veterinarians and producers. AHI and its member companies have supported the stakeholder approach used by FDA to reach this point and we will continue to work collaboratively to implement the policy goals articulated in these documents.” The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said, “The goal of giving veterinarians greater oversight of antibiotic use in food animals is commendable but cattlemen are concerned with the feasibility of implementing the veterinary feed directives given practical hurdles, including a current shortage of veterinarians in many rural areas throughout the country and the increased record-keeping burden it could have on the day-to-day requirements veterinarians currently face.” The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said, “The loss of and restricted access to products expected with implementation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s guidance on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production likely will disproportionately affect small producers, have a negative effect on animal health and increase the cost of producing food while not improving public health.” Legislation to ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion, prevention and control have been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.