FDA must reconsider antibiotics in animal feed

Federal judge says agency has done little to address potential human risk

A federal judge has ordered the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider potential restrictions on antibiotics in animal feed, saying the agency has done very little to address potential threats to human health, according to reports.

The judge questioned the FDA’s arguments that it would be less costly and more efficient to ask the feed industry to voluntarily cut back on the use of such antibiotics, rather than go through the regulatory process of revoking the approval of such drug use on farms and at feed lots. “For over thirty years, the agency has been confronted with evidence of the human health risks associated with the widespread subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in food-producing animals, and, despite a statutory mandate to ensure the safety of animal drugs, the agency has done shockingly little to address these risks,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz.

Organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Academy of Pediatrics say that the current use of antibiotics endangers people who grow ill from resistant bacteria but cannot be treated with standard antibiotic therapies. Industry officials, citing conflicting scientific research, say such practices pose little risk to public health. According to Katz’ ruling, the FDA must make a determination, once and for all, if the drugs are shown to be safe or not safe, and provide reasoning either way.