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Avinash Kar’s Blog

Antibiotic Use in Animal Feed: A Look at What's Ahead in 2013 and a Recap of 2012

Avinash Kar

Posted January 7, 2013 in Health and the Environment

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As we enter the New Year, all signs suggest the topic of antibiotic misuse in animal feed is poised to be a leading health issue in 2013.  Moving forward, we have a couple of new things to share as well as some upcoming events to note. And we’ll also take this opportunity to look back at an eventful 2012 and its highlights.

Looking forward

First, we have a couple of updates to offer:

  1. Timeline:  We have a new timeline that illustrates the 35-year saga of stalled progress on this issue. We thought it might be useful to lay out the long history of FDA’s failure to address antibiotic use in animal feed, an important factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" which threaten the effectiveness of vital medicines (antibiotics); the timeline also illustrates the progress that has been made in Europe in the same time.    Timeline.JPG(Update: the timeline is now housed on its own web-page which is more easily shareable. Please click on the image or link above to see a larger version.)
  2. Positions of Leading Medical and Scientific Authorities on Use of Antibiotics in Animal Feed:  There is a remarkable level of agreement in the medical and scientific community that we need to stop the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock to protect human health, and this was another thing we found ourselves pointing out a lot last year. We have now collected quotations from many of these organizations in one place. See here or click on the image below to see a larger version. It makes for sobering reading.Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for saving-antibiotics-quotes-thumb.jpg
  3. The Latest on the Lawsuit: The written briefing (arguments) in the appeal of our district court wins is complete. Oral argument is scheduled for February 8. We look forward to a decision from the Court of Appeals. A win would be another great step forward on a long-neglected threat to our health and the health of our children.

Looking Back

Last year was a year of tremendous forward progress on an issue that has languished for too long. Antibiotic misuse on poultry, pigs, and cattle is a leading contributor to the rise of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" which are making antibiotics less effective and putting us all at risk, and action on the issue has been pending for over 35 years at FDA. But finally there is movement on the issue.

  1. Lawsuit Victories: We had a couple of tremendous successes last year in our lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration to compel action by the agency.  A federal court directed FDA to stop the use of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed unless drug manufacturers can prove in a hearing that such use is safe for human health. The court also directed FDA to examine the science and evaluate the safety of other medically important antibiotics. Read all about it here. FDA’s response has been to propose “voluntary” non-binding recommendations that industry can choose to ignore. Unfortunately, FDA has also appealed the decisions, and we are currently litigating the appeal. But we remain convinced that we have the better of the argument.
  2. Media Coverage: The year also saw great attention being brought to bear on the issue, thanks in part to our lawsuit. Editorials across the country urged greater action to stop the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in livestock production.

The court victories and the media coverage lay a great platform to move the work forward in the upcoming year.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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