Petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to Ban the Use of Certain Antibiotics in Livestock Feed
This petition, submitted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), Public Citizens Health Research Group, and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), summarizes the scientific evidence that agricultural uses of antibiotics cause the development of antibiotic resistance in human pathogens.
CSPI Report 5/28/98
Letter to FDA
Shortly after the discovery and widespread introduction of antibiotics into medical practice 50 years ago, scientists observed that bacteria could develop resistance to them. The more antibiotics are used, the more rapidly resistance develops. When such resistance develops, bacterial growth is no longer stopped by the antibiotic, and, thus, the antibiotic is no longer capable of treating or curing the disease. Antibiotic resistance can transform infections from easy to treat to illnesses that require prolonged treatments, necessitate lengthy hospitalizations, or cause death.
Since the 1950s, farmers have been using antibiotics as a production tool in raising livestock. They add antibiotics to livestock feed to counteract the effects of crowded living conditions and poor hygiene. In the U.S., as much as one third of all antibiotics produced are added to feed each year. Such use causes the development of antibiotic resistance among foodborne pathogens that can sicken people who consume tainted meat or touch infected animals. It also can result in antibiotic resistance in nonpathogenic bacteria. Those bacteria may transfer their resistance genes to disease-causing bacteria, resulting in antibiotic-resistant infections in people. This petition, submitted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), Public Citizens Health Research Group, and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), summarizes the scientific evidence that agricultural uses of antibiotics cause the development of antibiotic resistance in human pathogens. Recent data show that more bacteria are becoming resistant to one, or sometimes several, antibiotics. For example, the prevalence of resistance to five antibiotics among a particular strain of salmonella has increased from 0.6 percent in 1979 to 34 percent in 1996.
This petition calls upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rescind approvals of certain agricultural uses of antibiotics when such uses endanger human health. Specifically, the FDA should not allow an antibiotic to be used as a livestock feed additive if that antibiotic is used in (or related to one used in) human medicine. That position is supported by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Public Health Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the American Medical Womens Association, and other organizations. The FDA has the legal authority and responsibility to ensure that the use of antibiotics in livestock does not endanger human health. In the 1970s it proposed rescinding the approvals of penicillin and tetracycline as feed additives because of the human-health risk associated with such use, but that proposal was never finalized.
In 1998, the FDA proposed a new framework for approving antibiotics for livestock designed to ensure that the agency consider whether such use would cause antibiotic resistance and, therefore, pose a threat to public health. The FDAs action on this issue reaffirms its statutory authority to ensure that agricultural uses do not jeopardize human health by increasing antibiotic resistance. However, the framework falls short by not adequately addressing existing uses of antibiotics. In order to be truly protective, the FDA must rescind already-approved uses of medically important antibiotics in livestock feed, in order to protect those invaluable drugs.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. References available by request.