CSPI welcomes progress by the FDA in developing an antimicrobial use monitoring system on farms

FDA building sign


Group wants a universal requirement for farms to record usage data and for the FDA to sample these data randomly

This spring, the Food and Drug Administration commissioned the Reagan-Udall Foundation to explore how the agency could collect antimicrobial usage data from farms to better understand and limit antimicrobial resistance stemming from this usage.  

The rising level of antimicrobial resistance is a leading public health threat that will cause an estimated 10 million deaths per year globally by 2050. Antimicrobial usage in food animals can lead to the development of antimicrobial resistance in bacteria that harm humans.  

The Foundation primarily evaluated the possibility of a private-public partnership to facilitate anonymized antimicrobial usage data collection by the FDA from farms, developing a series of principles it recommended be included in any data-collection system. 

Today, CSPI submitted comments to the FDA regarding the Foundation’s preliminary report on antimicrobial use monitoring, generally agreeing with those principles.   

In particular, CSPI agreed with the need to collect data that show the nuances of how these antibiotics are being used, including animal species, size, and purpose of treatment. But the organization recommended mandatory data collection. These data would be held by producers, but FDA could sample a random set of producers on an annual basis to track antibiotic use in a more finely grained fashion than is possible with current practices. The agency could then provide updated, aggregated data in an annual report or on a website, according to CSPI. Particular producers could use those data to see how their practices compare to overall industry practices. These data can also assist public health agencies in the development of policies to target usages that could be mitigated or modified to minimize the development of resistance, the group said. 

To facilitate such comparisons, CSPI also urged the FDA to require each farm to record its usage in a uniform manner, regardless of whether the FDA samples a farm’s data that year, and for the agency to release collected data in a manner that allows producers and veterinarians to compare their antimicrobial usage to their peers. But mandatory, standardized data collection and random sampling of a subset are necessary to avoid the biased data that are likely to result from a voluntary opt-in process.  

“Creating a system by which farmers and veterinarians can compare a farm’s antibiotic usage to usage by similar farms will foster the responsible use of these drugs,” says Dr. James Kincheloe, a veterinarian who used to work on production farms and is the Food Safety Campaign Manager at CSPI. “With such a system, farms will be better able to see where there may be inappropriate use, which is often a financial cost in addition to being a public health hazard.”