In 1977, the Food and Drug Administration proposed banning the use of penicillin and two forms of tetracyline for growth promotion in livestock. FDA feared the overuse of these antibiotics in animal feed could help development of drug-resistant bacteria that can infect people. Since then the agency failed to hold hearings or take any further action. Now, thanks to prompting from several health and consumer advocacy groups, a federal court has ordered the FDA to follow through on a 35-year-old proposal that could lead to a withdrawal of the drugs.
Judge Theodore Katz wrote, – the scientific evidence of the risks to human health from the widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has grown, and there is no evidence the FDA has changed its position that such uses are not shown to be safe. The FDA must now grant the drug makers an opportunity to appear at a hearing and prove that the antibiotics are safe. If the drug sponsors fail to make their point the FDA Commissioner must issue a withdrawal order.
Avinash Kar, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the court’s decision – affects a far greater share of antibiotic use in animals. Kar says – this is a long overdue step toward preserving life-saving medicines for when we need them. These antibiotics were meant to cure disease, not to fatten up pigs and chickens. - Andy Eubank