Antibiotics should only be used to cure or prevent disease in livestock, not to promote growth, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
‘Purposes other than for the advancement of animal or human health should not be considered judicious use [of antibiotics],’ principal deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein told a House Rules Committee. ‘Eliminating these uses will not compromise the safety of food.
He said there was ‘clear evidence’ that constant exposure to antibiotics led to organisms becoming resistant, and ‘the use of antimicrobials should be limited to those situations where human and animal health are protected’.
Agriculture accounts for 70 per cent of antibiotic use in the US, according to one report, with drugs being administered to increase the weight of livestock or to improve food consumption. Continual exposure to antibiotics can lead to bacteria becoming drug-resistant like superbugs MRSA, C.Difficile and Staphylococcus aureus.
The FDA’s second-in-command was giving testimony on a bill introduced in March that would require any application for a new animal drug to prove there was ‘a reasonable certainty’ of its not producing antimicrobial resistance. The Preservation of Antiobiotics for Medical Treatment Act would also require ‘nontherapeutic’ drugs currently being administered to be withdrawn within two years of the bill being enacted.
Sharfstein added that medication should be administered to livestock only when supervised by a vet, meaning an effective end to over-the-counter distribution to farmers and ranchers.
Sharfstein later that his comments were a ‘statement of FDA principles’, adding that the organisation had ‘no position’ on legislation that would prevent the use in livestock of antibiotics used to treat bacterial illnesses in humans, including penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, lincosamides, streptogramins, aminoglycosides and sulfonamides.