USTR Position on Feeding Antibiotics to Livestock Directly Conflicts with CDC and WHO Positions

FDA’s New Report on Antibiotics in Farm Animals Adds Urgency to Fight for Responsible Antibiotics Use

WASHINGTON - In a letter sent today to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Charlene Barshefsky, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) castigated her office’s opposition to the European Union’s (EU) ban on the use in livestock feed of human-use antibiotics. CSPI charges that the USTR’s position is diametrically opposed to that of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

   “The USTR advocates a policy that undermines the public health. Agricultural uses of antibiotics are promoting the spread of new drug-resistant bacteria, which have become a serious public-health hazard,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI. “Both the CDC and the WHO have stated that banning human-use antibiotics from livestock feed protects the public health. The CDC has already determined that the decision by the EU to ban human-use antibiotics from livestock feed was ‘scientifically justifiable.’”

   “Unfortunately, the USTR is trying to invoke a World Trade Organization (WTO) trade agreement to protect U.S. meatpackers’ and drug companies’ sales in Europe regardless of the effect on the public health,” continued Jacobson. “The USTR should defer to the expertise of the health organizations and retract its misguided letter to the EU.”

   “This is not the first time that the Clinton Administration has put trade goals ahead of consumer safety. In recent months, the Administration has acquiesced to international food safety standards that fall below U.S. requirements and has failed to require foreign meat and poultry producers to comply with U.S. food safety inspection programs,” stated Bruce Silverglade, CSPI director of legal affairs.

   For more than 40 years, U.S. farmers have been routinely feeding low levels of penicillin, tetracycline, and other antibiotics to most poultry, cattle, and pigs to speed growth and cut costs. Last March, CSPI and more than 50 scientists and 41 health, consumer, and other groups petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the subtheraputic use of seven human-use antibiotics.

   “We fear that the FDA may be forced by the USTR to adopt policies favored by industry, but detrimental to health,” said Jacobson. “Even President Clinton has said that ‘we should level up, not level down’ when it comes to consumer protection and the global marketplace.”