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Nonpartisan Watchdog Finds 'Gaps' in Oversight of Antibiotics in Agriculture

The federal government has taken steps aimed at reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a serious health threat that sickens an estimated 2 million people in the United States each year.

But nobody knows if those steps — many focused on monitoring the antibiotics given to cattle, hogs and chickens raised for food — are working.

According to a recent report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, there are “gaps” in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration’s antibiotic oversight. Those gaps include a lack of data collected from farms and of metrics that help gauge whether government initiatives are actually doing what they’re designed to do.

The FDA most recently implemented controls in January that address how farmers can distribute antibiotics to livestock.

“Antibiotic resistance is a public health crisis, not only in the U.S., but globally,” said Cameron Harsh, senior manager for organic and animal policy for the Center for Food Safety. “It is a critical food safety issue that we are running out of time to address.”