Human Health, Antibiotics and Industrial Farms
H.R. 1549, the Preservation of Antibiotics For Medical Treatment Act of 2009 now under consideration by the House, would limit the amount of antibiotics that can be used on factory animal farms. “The farm lobby’s opposition makes its passage unlikely,” The New York Times reported Monday.
Industrial agriculture has adopted many practices that put public health at risk. Factory farms routinely feed animals antibiotics to off-set crowding and bad sanitation.
A large group of agricultural organizations, including the Coalition for Animal Health , has urged the speaker of the US House of Representatives not to ban preventative use of antibiotics, in spite of testimony by the American Medical Assn and the FDA that this practice creates stronger drug-resistant diseases and makes many antibiotics useless when treating humans.
Jamie Hardin writes:
On Monday, July 13, the FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein testified that the routine use of antibiotics used on industrial farms should be phased out because of many factors, including disease control and prevention.
Currently, many of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) administer human grade antibiotics to animals on a preventative basis to ensure that the animals do not get sick and spread disease. Antibiotics were once only used if a particular animal was infected. Through the years, as the meat industry has become more commercialized, the conditions have become so unsanitary for animals that antibiotics are used constantly. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates 70 percent of the antibiotics in this country are given to animals that are being raised for food. The administration of antibiotics has become so haphazard that the animals are given antibiotics in their feed and water.
The commissioner, further stated:
Many factors contribute to the spread of antimicrobial resistance. ……Antimicrobial use in animals has been shown to contribute to the emergence of resistant microorganisms that can infect people. The inappropriate nontherapeutic use of antimicrobial drugs of human importance in food-producing animals is of particular concern. Through international trade and travel, resistant microbes can spread quickly worldwide. ……..
Protecting public health requires the judicious use in animal agriculture of those antimicrobials of importance in human medicine. ………….
FDA supports the idea of H.R. 1549 to phase out growth promotion/feed efficiency uses of antimicrobials in animals. The current statutory process of withdrawing a new animal drug approval is very burdensome on the agency. FDA recommends that any proposed legislation facilitate the timely removal of nonjudicious uses of antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals.
This is a turn around for the FDA as Grist magazine reports
Until now, the FDA had been silent on the problem of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that develop on factory farms—even as evidence of their existence piled up.
Prevention magazine recently ran a pretty amazing story laying out the importance of the issue. The piece focused on MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug that now kills more Americans every year than AIDS.
A growing body of research links MRSA to confined animal feedlot operations (CAFOs), where animals receive regular doses of antibiotics. The U.S. government has (until Sharfstein’s testimony) cravenly ignored the link.
One report estimated the annual cost of antibiotic resistance to a single pathogen, Staphylococcus aureus, was $122 million. … By 2000 the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that the annual cost of treating patients who acquired resistant infections in acute care facilities in the United States was $3.5 billion.
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