In December, the FDA asked animal health companies to voluntarily stop using antibiotics to promote growth of meatier cows, pigs, and other livestock. This is known as non-therapeutic use.
According to a recent report by the FDA, 25 sponsors confirmed in writing their intent to engage with FDA as defined in Guidance #213 and have given FDA consent to list their names in this update. These 25 sponsors hold 99.6 percent of the applications affected by Guidance #213 and include subsidiaries of Bayer and Eli-Lilly.
The guidelines are meant to thwart the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which some scientists blame on antibiotics in the food supply. Drug-resistant bacteria strike 2 million Americans a year and cause 23,000 deaths, according to the CDC. The FDA has long been under fire for failing to keep a lid on antibiotic use in farm animals. In January, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report containing evidence that the FDA’s scientists were aware of 18 farm antibiotics that posed a high risk of spawning antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
However, critics claim that 89 percent of antibiotic drugs that the guidelines advise against using to speed growth can still be given to healthy animals for other reasons, such as disease prevention. They also contend that since the system is voluntary, it gives the pharamaceutical companies too much discretion and leeway in conducting their own policy and enforcement methods, especially on large factory farms, and with easily obtained OTC (over the counter) drugs. Critics are demanding a complete ban on antibiotics/ antimicrobials for non-therapeutic use.
Following is a link to a recent Reuters News article which offers a well-balanced summary of this story.