FDA Asks Farmers to Voluntarily Stop Using Antibiotics—Is It Enough?

Monday, April 16, 2012 - 3:45pm

Guest blog post from Suzanne McMillan, ASPCA Director of Farm Animal Welfare

As many of you know, animals raised on factory farms often receive antibiotics in order to remain healthy in an otherwise harmful environment as well as to promote growth. But there are dangers involved for both humans and animals! Antibiotic resistance in humans is a very big concern, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been under increasing pressure to do something about it.

Last week the FDA finally responded, releasing three documents addressing the use of antibiotics in livestock. While it’s great that the FDA is acknowledging a problem, these documents are extremely disappointing. Producers are simply asked to voluntarily curb their use of antibiotics, and pharmaceutical companies are asked to voluntarily stop labeling certain antibiotics as useful for livestock growth. All of this despite a federal court ruling just last month that ordered FDA to stop relying on voluntary programs to curb the use of certain antibiotics. Further, these programs focus only on using antibiotics for growth promotion—not on the similarly common practice of feeding animals antibiotics to prop up their already weak immune systems.

The coalition Keep Antibiotics Working, of which the ASPCA is a member, calls the FDA’s new plan an “inadequate response” and urges it to, at the very least, establish “an enforcement mechanism and timeline” for achieving the voluntary protocols it proposes. 

For more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to help farmed animals, please visit our Farm Animal Cruelty section.