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Tighter Rules for Factory Farm Antibiotics? Maybe

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Farm Issues page.
On Dec. 22, the FDA quietly delivered what I called at the time a "Christmas present for factory farms": It announced it was ending a process it had begun 35 years earlier to determine whether routine antibiotic use on factory-scale kivestock farms posed a public health threat. Instead of pursuing regulation, the agency declared, it would rely on a "voluntary" approach to persuading livestock operations to reduce antibiotic abuse.

This, even though the agency itelf has conceded that that the practice of giving animals raised in tight quarters daily antibiotic doses of generates antibiotic-resistant pathogens that threaten people; and even though the meat industry has shown no appetite to end the practice on its own.

Just three months later, the industry's gift has been unceremoniously snatched back by a federal judge, responding to a lawsuit brought by a coalition of consumer and enviro groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.  

Wired's excellent Maryn McKenna, who broke the story, summarized New York Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz's move like this:

 The decision, filed this afternoon, does not compel the FDA to ban growth-promoter (or "feed efficiency") use of antibiotics. What it does appear to do, though, is require the FDA to follow through on a process that it began in 1977, when the agency was so concerned over the safety of using penicillin and tetracycline drugs in livestock feed that it called hearings to examine withdrawing its approval of using the drugs in animals. Because of pressure, largely from certain Congressmen, those hearings were never held.


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