Just Say No…To High Risk Antibiotics

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By: Amelia Sandot, Staff Member

The saying goes “you are what you eat,” but we don’t really think about what keeps our food healthy enough to be eaten. The focus seems to be on the quality of food we feed the animals we later plan on consuming. Recently, however, the concern seems to be shifting towards the medicine we are giving our food. According to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) article, many years ago the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that many of the common antibiotics still fed to our animals pose a “high risk” to humans.[1]

From 2001 to 2010, the FDA conducted a study on some 30 types of previously approved antibiotics for animals, such as chickens, cows, and pigs.[2] Of the 30 antibiotics studied, 18 were found to be unsafe for human consumption because of the risk that they could introduce “antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”[3] Since the conclusion of the study, the FDA has done little to nothing to stop the use of these antibiotics on animals, says the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the group who released the documents containing the FDA’s conclusions.[4] According to the NRDC’s report, none of the 30 antibiotics tested would be approved as new drugs if they were introduced today under the 2003 FDA guidelines.[5]

The problem with the antibiotics is that they are not being used to cure the animals of diseases but are instead being used so that the animals eat more and grow quicker.[6] This abuse of the antibiotics creates bacteria that resist the antibiotics and can be transferred to humans who use similar antibiotics to fight disease.[7] This creates a serious problem when there is a disease outbreak and known antibiotics cannot be used as the cure.

As of late, the FDA is beginning to “phase out” the use of the antibiotics as growth stimulants.[8] The FDA has released rules, which prohibit the use of antibiotics for anything other than disease prevention.[9] The new rules also require that a veterinarian monitor all antibiotic use.[10] It is reassuring to see that steps are being taken to guarantee that the foods we consume are safe and healthy because anything labeled “high risk” probably should not be eaten.
[1] Carmen Cordova, Playing Chicken with Antibiotics: Previously Undisclosed FDA Documents Show Antibiotic Feed Additives Don’t Meet the Agency’s Own Safety Standards, NRDC Issue Brief, 2, (2014), http://www.nrdc.org/food/saving-antibiotics/files/antibiotic-feed-fda-documents-IB.pdf.
[2] Dan Charles, FDA Found Drugs Used in Food Animals to be ‘High Risk,’ Food for Thought (Jan. 28, 2014, 10:37 AM), http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/01/27/267225093/fda-found-drugs-used-in-food-animals-to-be-high-risk.
[3] See Cardova, supra note 1, at 6.
[4] See Charles, supra note 2.
[5] See Cordova, supra note 1, at 7.
[6] See Charles, supra note 2.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Webinar to Address FDA Decision on Antibiotics Use in Food Animals, Farm.com, (2014), http://www.farms.com/news/webinar-to-address-fda-decision-on-antibiotics-use-in-food-animals-71420.aspx.
[10] Supra.