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FDA Has Allowed Antibiotics in Animal Feed despite Risk to Human Health, Report Says

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The Food and Drug Administration has continued to allow dozens of antibiotics to be used in livestock feed, despite findings from its researchers that the drugs could expose humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the food supply, an environmental advocacy group said in a report Monday.

FDA officials reviewed about 30 animal-feed additives between 2001 and 2010, rating 18 of them "high risk" in terms of contributing to health problems in humans, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The remaining drugs the agency examined did not have adequate data to determine whether they were safe, the report said.

According to the NRDC, at least 26 of the feed additives that FDA researchers reviewed - some of which have been in use since the 1950s - did not meet standards set by the agency in 1973 that required companies to submit scientific studies proving that the drugs were safe.

The report comes amid increasing worries in the public health world about the problem of antibiotic-resistant infections, which sicken millions of Americans each year and kill an estimated 23,000. Public health officials across the globe have warned that the misuse and overuse of antibiotics are causing more and more of the drugs to lose their effectiveness, meaning that even routine infections could become untreatable.

Carmen Cordova, an NRDC microbiologist and lead author of the analysis, called the FDA's failure to act on its own findings "a breach of their responsibility and the public trust."