By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday President Barack H. Obama’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they want meat and poultry producers to stop giving antibiotics to their animals to make them grow faster.
The FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, Michael Taylor said, “This is a sea change. We’re finally ready to put this issue behind us.” The FDA will give companies three months to declare their intentions “so we know who’s going along with us on this and who isn’t,” and then will begin a 90-day comment period, Taylor says. After that, companies will have three years to implement the changes. If some companies don’t go along, he says, the FDA will “look toward other regulatory options.”
The FDA is asking that the animal pharmaceutical industry require that producers have access to their products only with a veterinarian’s prescription. They are also asking that veterinarians not prescribe any antibiotics to promote growth or improve feed efficiency and they are asking that farmers, ranchers, and feedlots voluntarily stop using antibiotics in the feed and water of food animals for production purposes.
‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ talked with Dr. Billy Powell, Executive Vice President for the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association (ACA). Powell said that the changes do not directly impact Alabama’s cattle farms and ranches because cattle producers have a strong track record of working with veterinarians in the prudent and appropriate use of antibiotics and other herd health tools. Through multiple industry-led initiatives, including the Beef Quality Assurance Program and the Producer Guidelines for Judicious Use of Antimicrobials, cattle farmers and ranchers work hand-in-hand with veterinarians to select and use antibiotics carefully and only when needed. Dr. Powell said that this relationship between cattle farmers and veterinarians is key to the further production of safe, wholesome beef that is continuously raised by family farms in the United States to feed a growing world population. Powell said that the (ACA) is pleased that FDA has resisted unscientific calls to completely ban the use of antibiotics and antimicrobials in cattle and other livestock species because this issue remains a multifaceted, extremely complex issue that cannot be adequately addressed solely by focusing on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Powell says that the ACA supports using animal’s pharmaceuticals to treat illnesses and maintain the health of livestock as part of humane treatment of farm animals and is just another way that cattle farmers are committed to raising healthy livestock.
FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said, “It is critical that we take action to protect public health. The new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective. We are also reaching out to animal producers who operate on a smaller scale or in remote locations to help ensure the drugs they need to protect the health of their animals are still available.”
In the 1960s, researchers discovered that including low levels of antibiotics in the feed of food animals could improve the average daily weight gains (ADG) and decrease the amount of feed necessary for the animal to gain a pound of gain, feed efficiency (FE). Since the 1970s, some physicians have blamed the increasing number of antibiotic resistant strains of pathogens in human health on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Since then the FDA has prevented some new classes of antibiotics from being used in food animals for this reason and has increased mandatory withdrawals times before an animal treated with antibiotics can be harvested for food. Critics of this scientific theory argue that properly cooked meat should not expose consumers to any bacteria or pathogens, whether they are antibiotic resistant or not and that over-prescription of antibiotics in human medicine is a much more likely cause of antibiotic resistance in humans than anything given to an animal weeks or months before it was slaughtered.