of Article: http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/
The New York Times
reports on yesterday’s House Committee on Rules hearing on "H.R. 1549 -
Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009." In
today’s article, titled, “Administration
Seeks to Restrict Antibiotics in Livestock,” the Times refers to
testimony by FDA Deputy Commissioner,
Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D.
In his testimony,
(pdf) Dr. Sharfstein explained that antimicrobial resistance has emerged as
a threat to public health for multiple reasons, including:
- Physicians prescribing
antimicrobials too frequently or inappropriately
- Patients failing to complete
a prescribed course of antimicrobial, making it more likely that
surviving microbes will develop resistance
- Antimicrobial use in animals
- Nontherapeutic use of
antimicrobial drugs of human importance in food-producing animals
In his written testimony,
Dr. Sharfstein stated:
To avoid unnecessary
development of resistance under conditions of constant exposure (growth
promotion/feed efficiency) to antibiotics, the use of antimicrobials should
be limited to those situations where human and animal health are
protected. Purposes other than for the advances of animal or human
health should not be considered judicious use. Eliminating these uses
will not compromise the safety of food.
In short, Dr. Sharfstein
advocated for the discontinuation of the use of administering antibiotics
to otherwise healthy food animals for the sole purpose of generating growth
or promoting feed efficiency.
To further Dr.
Sharfstein’s point, in his testimony
(pdf) before the House Committee, Robert P. Martin, Senior Officer of The Pew
Environment Group, presented the findings of The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal
Production, an independent commission funded by a grant from The Pew
Charitable Trusts Health to investigate the problems associated with
industrial farm animal production. Mr. Martin stated:
The Commission released
its full report on April 29, 2008, that included 24 primary
recommendations. The Commission was so concerned about the indiscriminate
use of antibiotics in food animal production, and the potential threat to
public health, that five of those recommendations deal with antibiotic use.
The top two public health recommendations call for the end on the
non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animal production and set strict
definitions for their use.
The top recommendation,
submitted in Mr. Martin’s written testimony, is to testrict the use of
antimicrobials in food animal production to reduce the risk of
antimicrobial resistance to medically important antibiotics. According
to the Commission, this can be achieved by:
- Phasing out and banning the
use of antimicrobials for non-therapeutic (i.e. growth promoting) use
in food animals
- Immediately banning any new
approvals of antimicrobials for non-therapeutic uses in food animals
and retroactively investigating antimicrobials previously approved.
- Strengthening recommendations
in FDA Guidance #152 which requires the FDA determine that the drug is
safe and effective for its intended use in the animal prior to
approving an antimicrobial for a new animal drug application.
- Facilitating the reduction in
industrial farm animal production use of antibiotics and educating
producers on how to raise food animals without using non-therapeutic
antibiotics, the USDA’s extension service should be tasked to create
and expand programs that teach producers the husbandry methods and
best practices necessary to maintain the high level of efficiency and
productivity they enjoy today.
H.R. 1549, which is
supported by the American Medical Association and other public
health-related organizations, is opposed by the National Pork Producers
Council and other farm organizations.
According to the Times
article, the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that up to 70 percent
of antibiotics used in the United States is given to healthy animals used
in food production (chickens, pigs, cattle) to promote growth or prevent
All testimony from
yesterday’s hearing can be found on the Committee on