Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Food industries gearing up to deal with FDA guidelines on use of antibiotics in animals

By the end of next year, a comprehensive set of rules will limit the use of antibiotics in animals. December 2016 is the end of a three-year phase-in of the new Food and Drug Administration guidelines, which require 280 antimicrobials considered important to human health "be labeled strictly to treat and prevent disease and no longer to accelerate weight gain," Agri-Pulse reports. An FDA directive on use of antibiotics in food and water is expected soon.

Some food industry players such as McDonald's are already supporting the initiative. The restaurant chain will soon stop buying meat that comes from animals treated with medically important antibiotics.

Critics have said the rules rely too much on voluntary compliance, but "Larry Granger, a leader in USDA's Antimicrobial Resistance Program, says a Southern rancher who's used to putting antibiotics in water during the summer to fight anaplasmosis (a wasting disease spread by ticks) will have to get a vet to approve the treatment before a pharmacy will dispense the drug," Agri-Pulse reports, noting that livestock owners who don't have convenient access to a veterinarian will need to get accustomed to the standards, which require the approval of a vet for antibiotic purchase and use.

The Farm Foundation held a roundtable discussion to help livestock owners learn how to adjust. In the summer and fall it will hold 10 public forums across the U.S. for producers. Although farmers and ranchers have questioned the FDA's broader regulatory reach, they aren't contesting it much because too many antibiotics can also make them less effective in farm animals. Also, overuse of antibiotics increases resistant strains of pathogens that can harm humans.

Grady Bishop, representing Animal Health, a top maker of animal health products, said those in the animal health industry can abide by the new rules by "using antibiotics intended for animals only, such as ionophores, a class of antibiotics never used on humans; using vaccines, enzymes or other products; or finding new animals husbandry practices to prevent or treat diseases."

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