Other producers urged to follow suit
The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today lauded Tyson Foods, Foster Farms and Perdue Farms — producers of a third of all chicken eaten in this nation — for not using medically important antibiotics in raising chickens, as reported in today’s New York Times. CSPI urged other producers to follow suit.
“If huge poultry producers like Tyson, Foster, and Perdue can eliminate the use of medically important antibiotics in healthy chickens, then so can other producers,” said Tamar Barlam, an infectious-disease physician at CSPI. “The routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock results in people contracting antibiotic-resistant illnesses from their food.
“The three companies have proved that American farmers do not need to feed important antibiotics to chickens — just as European producers proved earlier. Other poultry producers, as well as hog and cattle producers, should take similar steps. Congress should complete the job by passing a law that would phase out nontherapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics in animals. That would protect the effectiveness of those precious drugs and constitute a major public-health advance.”
The American Medical Association, World Health Organization, and numerous medical experts have advocated ending the use of medically important antibiotics for nontherapeutic uses in livestock. The nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that several times as many pounds of antibiotics are used to fatten cattle, hogs, and chickens as are used in human medicine.
In 1999, CSPI and other organizations petitioned the FDA to ban nontherapeutic agricultural uses of medically important antibiotics. According to Barlam, “The FDA said it could take as long as two decades to ban the use of an animal drug. It is clear that patients’ health can’t wait for the FDA to act. Congressional action is needed.”
CSPI is a member of “Keep Antibiotics Working,” a broad coalition of health, consumer, environmental, and other organizations that is seeking to end inappropriate uses of antibiotics in agriculture.