New USDA Report Stresses Regulations on Antibiotic Use

A new technical review by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “A Focus on Antimicrobial Resistance,” calls the issue a growing public health concern worldwide, stating the misuse of antimicrobial drugs in food animal production and human medicine is the main factor accelerating antimicrobial resistance.

The USDA report, in the National Agriculture Library, is a compilation of research from 63 scholarly and peer reviewed journals, including research supported by the Center for a Livable Future. It says limiting the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in animals agriculture can be achieved by:

  • Understanding the risks and benefits of antimicrobial use in food animals.
  • Development and implementation of principles guiding appropriate antimicrobial use in the food animal production.
  • Improvement in animal husbandry and food production practices to reduce the dissemination of AMR.
  • Development of regulations for prudent use of antimicrobials in food animals.
  • Development of testing and reporting protocols for drug-resistant foodborne pathogens by regulatory agencies.
  • Reduction in the usage of antimicrobials that are “critically important” for human medicine in food animals.

According to data released last December by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 80% (or 28.8 million pounds) of the antibiotics sold in 2009 were used to raise livestock and poultry.

In an article in last Saturday’s New York Times, “When Food Kills,” Columnist Nicholas Kristoff  calls attention to the ongoing E. coli outbreak in Europe, noting 325,000 people are hospitalized from food-borne illnesses each year. “We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer,” writes Kristoff. “Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system….is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster.”

Kristoff calls for more testing and education about E. coli adding, “a great place to start reforms would be banning the feeding of antibiotics to healthy livestock.”