FDA Voluntary Guidance on Antibiotics Tragically Flawed

Statement of CSPI Food Safety Director Caroline Smith DeWaal


The Food and Drug Administration's new policies intended to reduce the overuse of important antibiotics in animal production are tragically flawed. They rely too heavily on the drug industry and animal producers to act voluntarily in the best interest of consumers. Protecting public health is an authority and a responsibility that rests squarely with the FDA.

The announcement at least indicates that the agency recognizes a "public health imperative" to tackle this problem. Decades of misuse have led to some common pathogens, like Salmonella, becoming more virulent and less treatable. The FDA knows it can no longer afford to ignore antibiotic resistance. In March, the agency took a step in the right direction by banning certain extra-label uses of cephalosporin in certain food-producing animals. And last month, a federal court held that the agency must proceed with withdrawal actions on antibiotics. Many of these issues are addressed in the Preservation of Antibiotics in Medical Treatment Act, which the Administration should support. PAMTA would require the FDA to conduct regular reevaluation of drugs used in animal production.

The problem of antimicrobial resistance, and the contribution of animal agriculture to that problem, is urgent and global. The United States needs to take a leadership role in bringing comprehensive, effective action, in both the agricultural and medical spheres, to bear. The time for half-measures and voluntary steps has passed. 

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).