When the FDA released new guidelines in April on the use of antibiotics in livestock, Americans were given 90 days to tell them what we thought. By the time the comment period closed last Thursday, July 12, over 220,000 people had already written in to tell the agency: you can do better.
The new guidelines were long-awaited after decades of inaction by the FDA, and although a step in the right direction, don’t go far enough to protect public health. The proposed rules – which are voluntary – ask livestock producers to stop using antibiotics for growth promotion (one of the common uses of the drugs in animals), an effort we certainly applaud. However, many of the antibiotics used in meat production are for disease prevention so animals don’t get sick in crowded and often unsanitary living conditions.
In our own press statement, Consumers Union says, ”Animals should only get antibiotics when they are sick. The use of antibiotics for disease prevention in healthy animals should not be allowable. This inevitably results in overuse, and is not necessary. This is like giving all children antibiotics every day so that they don’t get ear infections.”
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of individuals who filed comments with the FDA, letters were submitted by groups of farmers, medical professionals and businesses in support of tighter regulations on the use of antibiotics in livestock.
Another letter from 281 chefs – which features notable sign-ons such as Food Network personality Giada De Laurentiis and French cooking legend Jacques Pepin – tells the FDA that they do their best to source organic or no-antibiotics meat in order to “lessen the burden of antibiotic resistance in the food supply and the environment” - but that, ultimately, “we cannot do this alone.”
For the thousands of comments the FDA must now must sift through, perhaps the overall sentiment is best summed up by Mark Bittman over at the New York Times when he says: “Dear FDA: Stop Drugging Animals.”