FDA Issues Plan to Control Therapeutic Antibiotics and Phase-Out Sub-Therapeutic Antibiotics in Livestock Production

Written by: Dr. Simon M. Shane

Jan 10
FDA Issues Plan to Control Therapeutic Antibiotics and Phase-Out Sub-Therapeutic Antibiotics in Livestock Production Dr. Simon M. Shane

On December 11, the FDA announced a plan to “help phase out the use of medically important antimicrobials in livestock for food production purposes.” The use of these applications were defined as enhancing growth or improving feed efficiency. The FDA action was characterized as “a plan to ensure judicious use of antibiotics in food animals” and is predicated on Guidance Document #231 and the preceding Guidance Document #209, both of which can be accessed on www.fda.gov.

The FDA is requesting pharmaceutical manufacturers to accept the principle of withdrawing from the market “antimicrobial drugs that are considered medically important” and to implement a three-year program of transition to alternatives.

There will also be stricter control over administration of antibiotics to livestock applying judicious use principles under veterinary supervision in accordance with the Veterinary Feed Directive regulations.

In announcing the FDA action, Dr. Bernadette Devlin, director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, stated, “This action promotes the judicious use of important antimicrobials to protect public health while ensuring that sick and at-risk animals receive the therapy they need.”

In response to the FDA release, Dr. Ashley Peterson, vice-president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the National Chicken Council, stated, "The NCC appreciates the open and collaborative process FDA has undertaken to phase out the use of sub-therapeutic, or growth-promoting uses, of antibiotics that are medically important in treating humans.” She added, "We strongly support the responsible and judicious use of FDA-approved antibiotics and the involvement of veterinarians in raising healthy chickens.”

Dr. John Glisson, vice president of research programs for USPOULTRY, released the following statement, "The FDA is moving toward changing the way medically important antibiotics are used in food animal production. In the near future, medically important antibiotics will only be used for therapeutic purposes and only when directed and overseen by a veterinarian. The FDA has proceeded toward this goal in a thoughtful and deliberate manner in order to mitigate any risk to public health, while ensuring that veterinarians will have the resources required to maintain animal health.”

The statements from the two poultry-related organizations denote a tacit acceptance of the FDA intent given political and consumer resistance to non-essential administration of antibiotics to livestock. A number of broiler and hog producers have successfully transitioned to Consumer-Acceptable Production Enhancers (CAPES) during the past decade. A combination of prebiotics, probiotics and enhanced management has contributed to field performance equivalent to conventionally raised flocks and herds fed antibiotics.

The European Union effectively banned all non-therapeutic administration of antibiotics to livestock according to directive 1831/2003/EC, which came into effect on January 1, 2006. This action removed the few remaining feed additives that were permitted, following successive restrictions on designated compounds in specific member countries from 1998 onwards.

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