News Feature | March 28, 2014

Drug Companies Following US Regulators On Use In Livestock

By Marcus Johnson

Twenty-five drug companies are voluntarily phasing out the use of antibiotics for the growth of livestock. Scientists have long claimed that there are public health issues with continually treating livestock with pharmaceuticals. Over time, repeated exposure to pharmaceuticals can allow bacteria to mutate and become drug resistant, which is a danger for humans consuming meat.

This past December, the FDA asked twenty-six companies to stop the use of antibiotics in the growth of livestock. Twenty-five companies have agreed to comply, phasing out their antibiotics use. The FDA did not make a mandatory regulation, and the one company that chose not to comply was not named. Animals that are regularly treated with antibiotics include hogs, cattle, and poultry. Antibiotics have helped livestock to grow quicker and with less health problems.

Drug resistant bacteria are becoming a public health problem and different government agencies are making statements on the issue. This past September, the CDC released figures claiming that nearly 23,000 people are dying each year because of drug-resistant infections. The FDA has stated that one of the ways to help curb the problem is to stop treating livestock with antibiotics. The government agency has also stated that their voluntary option for phasing out antibiotics use in livestock is a quicker process than the traditional regulatory process.

While many believe that the FDA's move is a step in the right direction, some believe that there could still be compliance issues. Keeve Nachman of the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future commented, “If the voluntary guidelines do not rein in antibiotic use, compliance from drug companies is meaningless.”