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Court Rules Rampant Misuse of Antibiotics on Factory Farms Can Continue

For related articles and information, please visit OCA's Factory Farm and Food Safety page and our Health Issues page.

Despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientific findings that the misuse of antibiotics in farm animals threatens human health from "superbugs," business will continue as usual.

Yesterday, in a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FDA does not need to consider banning the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy animals despite the agency's findings that this misuse of antibiotics fundamentally threatens the effectiveness of medicines in both humans and animals.


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"This decision allows dangerous practices known to threaten human health to continue," said Avinash Kar, attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "Adding antibiotics to farm animals' feed, day after day, is not what the doctor ordered and should not be allowed."

The court's ruling overturned two 2012 district court rulings in cases brought by NRDC, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen and Union of Concerned Scientists. The earlier rulings directed the FDA to halt the regular use of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed for healthy animals until drug manufacturers could prove the safety of this practice.

Dissenting Judge Robert Katzmann said, "Today's decision allows the FDA to openly declare that a particular animal drug is unsafe, but then refuse to withdraw approval of that drug. It also gives the agency discretion to effectively ignore a public petition asking it to withdraw approval from an unsafe drug. I do not believe the statutory scheme can be read to permit those results."

The practice of feeding low doses of antibiotics to healthy livestock on factory farms is contributing to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, which is a growing public health concern.     


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