The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has produced draft guidelines for reducing the use of growth-promoting antibiotic drugs for meat-producing animals, saying it contributes to drug resistance in humans.
But farming groups have expressed concern that proposals to phase out antibiotics for growth promotion would be costly – which could lead to higher meat prices.
The FDA said it recognized the importance of antimicrobial drugs for both human and animal health, but said that they should be used less often in order to ensure they remain effective. The drugs include penicillin, tetracycline, macrolides and erythromycin, which are also commonly prescribed to people for fighting illness.
“The development of resistance to these drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness, poses a serious public health threat,” the FDA said.
Director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine Bernadette Dunham said: “Using medically important antimicrobial drugs as judiciously as possible is key to minimizing resistance development and preserving the effectiveness of these drugs as therapies for humans and animals.
“FDA is committed to working with animal drug sponsors, the veterinary and public health communities, the animal agriculture community, and all other interested stakeholders in developing a practical strategy to address antimicrobial resistance concerns that is protective of both human and animal health.”
In a conference call with reporters, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner Joshua Scharfstein said that antibiotics should only be used to protect animal health, rather than to promote growth or help with feed digestion.
However, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has criticized the FDA guidance, saying it could lead to the elimination or costly review of drugs previously approved for use in livestock and poultry, and that current regulations are sufficient.
NPPC president Sam Carney, a pork producer from Adair, Iowa said in a statement: “FDA didn’t present any science on which to base this, yet it could have a tremendous negative impact on animal health and, ultimately, the safety of food. As we know, healthy animals produce safe food, and we need every available tool to protect animal health.”
In Europe, all antibiotics for use as growth promoters in animal feed have been banned in the since 2006, and those that are important in human medicine have been banned there since 1998.
The FDA’s draft guidance is available online here .