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article imageUse of drugs in animal feed remains high

By Tim Sandle     Feb 1, 2014 in Environment
A new analysis of U.S. government studies on animal feed uncovers a concerning and widespread use of antibiotics. Some of the antibiotics pose risks to human health.
Late last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laid out a plan so that farmers will no longer use antibiotics to fatten up animals (as Digital Journal reported).
Many farmers add antibiotics to animal feed or drinking water of cattle, hogs, poultry and other food-producing animals to help them gain weight faster or use less food to gain weight. One side-issue is that antibiotics can often end up in the environment — for example ending up in streams, being spread to crops as fertilizer, or getting carried around by birds — and so they are potentially a threat to public health.
While the scientific community and government agencies like the FDA recognize the concern, the FDA has been criticized for only recommending that farmers reduce antibiotic levels, rather than taking tougher action. For example, commentary in the Washington Post states that the FDA has been planning to withdraw approval for some animal antibiotics since 1977. “But for decades, the agency took no action, even as the NRDC sued in recent years, trying to force it to follow through.”
The new analysis shows that of 30 antibiotics added to animal feed, 18 pose risks to humans by potentially exposing people to antibiotic-resistant bacteria in foods. This relates to health issues with the human body and the accelerated rate of bacteria becoming resistant to the very drugs that are designed to kill them.
Commenting on the FDA findings, Avinash Kar of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told the New York Times that his organization is not enamored with the FDA because the Agency "has repeatedly found, since the 1970s, that these drugs pose a risk to human health, but it has not done anything meaningful with those conclusions."
More about Antibiotics, Animals, Animal feed, Pathogens
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