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FDA Urges Less Antibiotics in Meat

Reporting from Washington - Meat producers should use certain antibiotics only to assure animal health and stop using the drugs to increase production and promote growth, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday.

The recommendation to cut back on the use of antimicrobial drugs comes amid rising concern that extensive use in animals contributes to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria afflicting humans.

"The development of resistance to this important class of drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness as antimicrobial therapies, poses a serious public health threat," the FDA said in a draft guidance statement.

The FDA guidance applies to antibiotics deemed "medically important" because they also are useful in treating human illness. It calls on meat producers to consult more closely with veterinarians about when to use drugs and which compounds to employ.

The FDA statement upset a leading meat industry group and disappointed a key nonprofit science organization calling for sharper restrictions on the use of antibiotics. The recommendation could fuel legislative efforts to more strictly regulate the use of antibiotics in the food chain.