The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is urging meat producers to cut back on the use of antibiotics, amid rising concern that extensive use of the drugs in animals slaughtered for meat can pose health risks to consumers who eventually eat it.
Currently, the FDA is only suggesting a change in antibiotic use in livestock, not mandating any specific regulations.
Dr Joshua Sharfstein, the principal deputy commissioner of FDA stated, “This is the first step in the FDA establishing the principles from which we could then move, if necessary, toward other mechanisms of oversight, which is regulation.
"This does not tell people what to do it establishes principles and tells people how to achieve those principles."
The FDA did not put a ban on the antibiotics completely but recommended the judicious use of the drugs only for sick animals and that too under the supervision of a veterinarian.
Resistance to bacteria
The recommendations come in the wake of rising apprehensions that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics on animals was imparting resistance to bacteria, which was resulting in the efficiency of the antimicrobial therapy diminishing.
The drugs in question include penicillin, tetracycline, macrolides and erythromycin, which are popular prescriptions for people to fight serious infections.
According to the FDA, nearly 100,000 people die annually from acquired bacterial infections that can no longer be treated with most drugs because of the antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Sharfstein stated, "FDA believes the overall evidence supports the conclusion that using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production purposes is not in the interest of protecting and promoting the public health.
"Antimicrobial agents have been used in human and veterinarian medicine for more than 50 years, with tremendous benefits to both humans and animals. But, because bacteria are so good at becoming resistant to antimicrobial drugs, it is essential that such drugs be used judiciously to delay the development of resistance."
Judicious use of antibiotics recommended
Antibiotics have been used to kill pathogens in animals for years with success.
However, the practice of numerous meat producers of providing antibiotic in feed and water to speed up the growth of entire flock of chicken and animal herd is perilous to human health.
The agency did not put a ban on the antibiotics completely but recommended the judicious use of the drugs only for sick animals and that too under the supervision of a veterinarian.
The FDA approves the use of antibiotics for the treatment of illness, prevention of disease, control of disease, and the nutritional efficiency of animals.
Earlier attempts by the food industry and veterinary groups to limit the use of antibiotics have failed, and there is an urgent need to tackle the rising problem.
In a statement, the FDA said, “Developing strategies for reducing (antibiotic) resistance is critically important for protecting both public and animal health.”