Statement of CSPI president Dr. Peter G. Lurie

The U.S. ban on using antibiotics for growth promotion and restrictions on over-the-counter use went into full effect in January 2017. Now, we are seeing the striking results that those changes have had on our food production system, with sales down 33 percent since the changes went into effect in January 2017 and 43 percent since sales peaked in 2015. The new sales data are encouraging, and show that progressive steps driven by the Food and Drug Administration, industry, and consumer demand can be effective in bringing about real change.

The highest percentage drop in sales was in chicken, while the largest overall amount of sales remains in cattle and swine. Further progress on antibiotics use in cattle and swine may be achievable and could have a critical impact in fighting the threat of antibiotic resistance.

While good news, the new FDA data show continuing areas for improvement. Sales of injectable, oral, and intramammary antibiotics, while low, have increased slightly over the past year. Some of these products are still available over-the-counter without a prescription. The FDA has promised to bring these products under veterinary oversight and should act swiftly to implement that change.

The FDA has also not yet fulfilled its pledge to publish figures that account for animal weight. This information will be vital to understanding how antibiotics are used in our food system and should be published without further delay.

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Dr. Lurie was an Associate Commissioner for Public Health strategy and analysis at the FDA, and participated in design of the animal sales report. CSPI previously joined other non-profit groups in filling two petitions to the FDA to ban growth promotion uses of antibiotics in 1999 and 2005, suing the agency in 2011 to act on a ban.