Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is implementing a voluntary plan with industry to phase out the use of certain antibiotics for enhanced food production.
Antibiotics are added to the animal feed or drinking water of cattle, hogs, poultry and other food-producing animals to help them gain weight faster or use less food to gain weight.
Because all uses of antimicrobial drugs, in both humans and animals, contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary. Governments around the world consider antimicrobial-resistant bacteria a major threat to public health. Illnesses caused by drug-resistant strains of bacteria are more likely to be potentially fatal when the medicines used to treat them are rendered less effective.
FDA is working to address the use of “medically important” antibiotics in food-producing animals for production uses, such as to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency. These drugs are deemed important because they are also used to treat human disease and might not work if the bacteria they target become resistant to the drugs’ effects.
“We need to be selective about the drugs we use in animals and when we use them,” says William Flynn, DVM, MS, deputy director for science policy at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). “Antimicrobial resistance may not be completely preventable, but we need to do what we can to slow it down.”
FDA is issuing a final guidance document that explains how animal pharmaceutical companies can work with the agency to voluntarily remove growth enhancement and feed efficiency indications from the approved uses of their medically important antimicrobial drug products, and move the therapeutic uses of these products from over-the-counter (OTC) availability to marketing status requiring veterinary oversight.
Once manufacturers voluntarily make these changes, the affected products can then only be used in food-producing animals to treat, prevent or control disease under the order of or by prescription from a licensed veterinarian.