Antibiotic Use On Farms Is Up Despite Promises To Curb Them

Antibiotic Use On Farms
The Food and Drug Administration is working to cut the use of antibiotics in animals for food production by 2017. Photo by Ewais/Shutterstock

SILVER SPRING, Md., Dec. 11 (UPI) — Although many companies have announced recently they would stop using antibiotics in food-producing animals as a means of encouraging growth, the Food and Drug Administration found sales of drugs to farms increased at a higher rate last year than the year before.

The FDA report found sales to farmers increased by four percent in 2014, outpacing the one percent increase seen in 2013.

Although antibiotics may be used to control disease among cattle, pigs, chicken and other livestock, farmers have used the drugs for decades to speed animals’ growth. The FDA recently set a goal for the use of veterinary antibiotics for reasons other than health to be phased out by the end of 2016, as part of a White House plan to combat the proliferation of antibiotic-resistent superbugs.

While food companies such as Tyson and McDonald’s announced this year they would begin phasing out the use of antibiotics in their meats, they are are the exception to the rule, and consumer activist groups see the new FDA numbers of indicative changes are not happening fast enough.

Based on sales reports the FDA requires for drugs sold for use with food-producing animals, the agency reported drug sales increased by four percent from 2013 to 2014, and by 22 percent from 2009 to 2014.

In 2014, the data showed that 62 percent of medically-important antimicrobials were sold for use in food-producting animals. The percentage of medically-important drugs approved for production use — to promote growth, regardless of health — decreased from 72 percent to 68 percent between 2009 and 2012, however has been at 72 percent for 2013 and 2014.

“This troubling trend reaffirms that an approach, based largely on voluntary industry reductions, is inadequate faced with the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance,” Susan Vaughn Grooters, a policy analyst for Keep Antibiotics Working, in a press release. “There is no indication that FDA’s change in policy has yet resulted in any meaningful reductions on antibiotic sales and usage in food animal production.”


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