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Agricultural antibiotics

FDA approves of agricultural use of antibiotics that pose 'high risk' to human health

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
Tags: agricultural antibiotics, human health risk, FDA

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(NaturalNews) Thirty dangerous antibiotics, deemed potentially harmful by the FDA, continue to run amuck in farm animal feed, welcoming drug-resistant bacteria. This includes 18 'high risk' antibiotics. Thanks to inaction by the US Food and Drug Administration, these drugs have been and will remain as additives in farm animal feed and water.

A freedom of information request, filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), brings forth over 3,000 pages of FDA documentation that details the dangers of these antibiotics which are still used in animal feed. The FDA has not acted in any way to remove these drugs from industry but has instead acted as the gatekeeper for the farm animal feed industry for decades.

Documents reveal over a decade of FDA inaction, despite dire health warnings

When the Centers for Disease Control confirmed a link between these antibiotics and a rise in antibiotic resistance in 2013, officials quickly came together and warned the public of "potentially catastrophic consequences" coming from antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose a threat to humans. The recommendation going forward was to stop adding these dangerous drugs in farm feed and water, but the FDA has been letting this issue slide for some time. According to documents uncovered by the NRDC, "high-risk" antibiotics have been permitted to stay in the US farm animal food supply for over a decade. (The documents obtained by the NRDC date from 2001 to 2010.)

The internal review, conducted by the NRDC, revealed that the use of these antibiotics in livestock exposes humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bacteria have basically outsmarted the drugs. The drugs are only good for bloating the livestock, increasing agribusiness production and keeping prices low for consumers, but the human health consequences are dire at this point and are more important than agribusiness economics. One of the drugs, Zoetis Inc.'s Penicillin G Procaine 50/100, is fed to poultry to aid in weight gain. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria thrive very well now in farm animal feed that contains these antibiotics. These superbugs pass on to the animals which are slaughtered and fed to humans.

"The evidence is clear. Drugmakers never proved safety. And FDA continues to knowingly allow the use of drugs in animal feed that likely pose a 'high risk' to human health. That's a breach of their responsibility and the public trust," said Carmen Cordova, NRDC microbiologist and lead author of the new NRDC analysis. "This discovery is disturbing but not surprising given FDA's poor track record on dealing with this issue. It's just more overwhelming evidence that FDA - in the face of a mounting antibiotic resistance health crisis - is turning a blind eye to industry's misuse of these miracle drugs."

Dangerous drugs running amok in the food supply, as agribusiness turns a blind eye

The internal FDA documents, obtained from the analysis "Playing Chicken with Antibiotics," were acquired through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the NRDC. They reveal that zero of the 30 antibiotics approved this year have sufficient information to establish their safety and that, if they were tested as new additives for livestock under current FDA guidelines, they would not be approved.

The documents also show that 18 of the 30 antibiotics permitted in animal feed were deemed to be "high risk," exposing humans to dangerous bacteria strains.

On top of that, 29 of the reviewed additives fail to satisfy standards set by the FDA in 1973. In 1977, the FDA first recognized the risks from the use of antibiotics in animal feed, including penicillin and most tetracyclines, which were scheduled to be removed from animal feed but never were.

The recent exposure has forced the FDA to comment. Last year, the FDA unveiled new guidelines for drug makers and agricultural companies, asking them to voluntarily phase out antibiotic use as a growth enhancer in livestock.

But is this all just theatrical rhetoric to make people feel safer going forward?

Is this the same kind of jargon heard by the FDA since 1978 - all talk and no action?

Will they continue to be the gate keeper for agribusiness, allowing dangerous drugs in the food supply?

Sources for this article include:




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