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Animal agriculture – including farmers, veterinarians, feed mills and animal health companies – is currently working to implement significant changes in the way antibiotics are used to keep food animals healthy.  These changes build on animal agriculture’s decades-long history of innovation and continuous improvement undertaken to ensure antibiotic stewardship, including the design of modern production systems, which have helped reduce the need for many antibiotics. Under a new FDA policy which takes effect January 1, 2017, antibiotics similar to those used in human medicine will be used in food animals only to fight disease under the supervision of a veterinarian.

This regulatory change proactively addresses issues raised in the Pew report by ensuring that a licensed veterinarian must order and oversee the use of a medically important antibiotic administered through feed or water. All remaining legally approved uses of these antibiotics will be therapeutic, targeted, uses – meaning only for the prevention, control or treatment of disease. The FDA-approved label for each product – which must be followed exactly by both veterinarians and farmers — designates a specific disease or pathogen to be targeted when the product is used therapeutically.

The farm’s veterinarian will be charged with deciding if that specific disease or pathogen is present and threatens the health of the animal or group of animals. The duration of use should be dictated by the disease threat; we cannot tie the hands of veterinarians by removing their ability to make medical decisions appropriate to all situations. Treating and preventing disease is critical to both human and animal health, and it is inhumane and unethical to ask farmers and veterinarians to allow animals to suffer when it is clear disease threats exist and could be managed with the responsible preventative use of antibiotics.

The FDA has recently asked stakeholders for comments on this specific issue, and we hope as the agency studies this issue, it will be driven by science and data. The current labels on all antibiotics have all been approved by the FDA based on required scientific research and data packages that have shown the products to be safe and effective.

We believe antibiotics should be used judiciously – the right medicine, at the right dose, and for the correct amount of treatment time. Judicious use is not synonymous with reduced use. Withholding treatment from sick animals to meet reduced use targets is neither judicious nor humane. The ability to treat and prevent disease is vitally important in both human and animal health. The new FDA guidance ensures licensed veterinarians will make these decisions and maintain oversight regarding the treatment of food animals with antibiotics, and we believe that guidance should be fully implemented without further restricting the ability of veterinarians to use their medical expertise to address disease threats in food-producing animals.

Category: Press Releases

Tag: Antibiotic Use,