FACT Seeks Ban of On-Farm Animal Drug Abuse

Mar 09, 1999, 00:00 ET from Food Animal Concerns Trust

    CHICAGO, March 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) wants
 to stop the current practice of drugging farm animals to simply promote their
 rapid growth.  Today FACT joined with the Center for Science in the Public
 Interest and others in petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to
 rescind existing approvals for subtherapeutic uses in livestock of any
 antibiotic used in, or having an impact on, human medicine.  FACT recommends
 that farmers take better care of farm animals rather than continuing to rely
 on antibiotics to create growth and prevent disease.  It has been demonstrated
 that improvements in animal husbandry methods eliminate the need for
 subtherapeutic antibiotic use.  When antibiotics that are used in human
 medicine such as penicillin, are continuously used on farms to promote growth,
 the environment becomes contaminated with bacteria that are resistant to
 antibiotic treatment.  These antibiotic resistant germs are a serious and
 growing threat to human health.
     Scientists have found that the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is
 a major cause of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  This is due, in large part,
 to the sheer volume of antibiotics used on-farm.  Yet, most antibiotics that
 are administered to animals have nothing to do with treating actual illnesses.
 In the 1950's it was discovered that by feeding low levels of antibiotics to
 poultry and pigs, their growth was dramatically enhanced.  Epidemiologists at
 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate that 80% of the
 antibiotics used on farms are used for growth promotion.  Among pigs, 93%
 receive antibiotics in their diets at some time during their
 "grower/finisher" period.  Nationwide more than 16 million pounds of
 antibiotics are used subtherapeutically for growth promotion.
     "It is not hard to see why resistance occurs on the farm," stated Richard
 Wood, FACT's Executive Director.  "All animals normally have a voluminous
 intestinal flora of bacteria.  When animals are continuously fed antibiotics
 as is the case with growth promoters, the bacteria that survive in this flora
 are the ones that are antibiotic resistant," he said.  "On large farms today
 literally tons of these resistant bacteria are excreted from farm animals.
 Recent scientific evidence indicates these resistant bacteria can be
 transmitted to humans either through the food chain or through direct contact
 with livestock or manure.  There is no treatment for people infected with
 antibiotic resistant bacteria.  Prolonged illness and even death can occur.
 The use of subtherapeutic antibiotics that impact human medicine must be
 banned," Mr. Wood concluded.
     FACT supports recent steps taken by the FDA to protect human health from
 resistant bacteria originating in food animals.  In November, the FDA notified
 the animal drug industry that all future approvals of antimicrobials intended
 for food animals must be evaluated for their impact on human health.  This FDA
 step applies only to future approvals.  Today's petition would affect existing
 approvals where the growth-promoting antibiotic may affect human health.
     While this petition bans only growth promoters that impact human health,
 FACT wants all subtherapeutic uses of antibiotics to be terminated.  "We
 encourage the FDA to require producers to move away from a reliance on this
 management approach," Mr. Wood said.  It is known that when animals are fed a
 nutritious diet and live in a healthy environment, growth promoters are not
 needed.  Countries that have banned subtherapeutics and have used better
 quality feed have found similar rates of growth to levels when subtherapeutics
 were used.
     "As we approach the twenty-first century, we are already seeing the
 development of 'superbugs,' particularly in hospital settings," stated Mr.
 Wood.  "Physicians should have at their disposal all possible methods for
 treating infections.  The unnecessary subtherapeutic use of antimicrobials may
 limit future human treatment options," he said.  At the time of FDA approval,
 a particular antimicrobial intended for food animals might not pose a public
 health threat.  However, it has been demonstrated that long after approval,
 the antibiotic may be found useful in treating a life-threatening infection in
 humans.  Unfortunately, due to resistant bacteria that may have developed over
 the course of animal subtherapeutic use, that antibiotic may not be an option
 for human therapy.
     "FACT supports this petition today and calls on the FDA to rescind
 approvals for subtherapeutic uses of antibiotics that affect human therapy,"
 Mr. Wood said.  "Out of long-term concern for human health, FACT also
 encourages the FDA to use this petition as the opportunity to move the food
 animal industry away from a reliance on all growth promoting antibiotics," he
     Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) is a non-profit organization that
 advocates for animal husbandry methods that will improve the safety of meat,
 milk and eggs.  FACT's Food Safety Program makes recommendations to the
 federal regulatory agencies based on its review of the scientific literature.
 FACT's On-Farm Research Program develops husbandry methods that are humane,
 improve food safety, and reduce pollution.  FACT also promotes the use of
 these systems in the farming community.

SOURCE Food Animal Concerns Trust