FDA Antibiotic Report: What They Knew Could Hurt Us

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The Food and Drug Administration (or, FDA) has known for years about the potential harm of antibiotics used by farmers, and chose to take a course of quiet inaction. A report by the National Resources Defense Council (or, NRDC) published Monday states that the agency reviewed 30 penicillin and tetracycline antibiotic feed additives between 2001 and 2010. None of the additives reviewed by the FDA would pass current regulations, and 26 failed to meet standards passed in 1973.

The NRDC obtained the information for its report through a Freedom of Information Act request. The FDA documents are the result of scientific reviews by the Microbial Food Safety Team. In addition to failing to meet established standards, 18 of the 30 under review “pose a ‘high risk’¬†of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through¬†the food supply.”

It does not appear that the FDA took any action regarding its own report. There was no evidence provided by the FDA of how widespread the use of the additives is. At least nine are being marketed for use today, and only two have been removed from the market. The latter action was a voluntary withdraw by the manufacturer.

Rather than focusing on the commonality of the additives, the NRDC is more concerned about the bigger picture. Particularly, the fact that, “FDA data indicate that the types of antibiotics in the reviewed additives — tetracyclines and penicillins — together make up nearly half of all the antibiotics used in animal agriculture.” Other additives to feed, and the generic versions of those tested would have a similar profile, and also be capable of generating antibiotic resistance. “This risk was recognized by FDA in 1977 when it proposed to withdraw approvals for animal feed additives containing penicillin and most tetracyclines,” the report states.

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