FDA seeks to limit use of antibiotics in animal feed to curb rise of resistant bacteria

Proposed rules would target antibiotics used for animals and humans

SILVER SPRING, Md. – The Food and Drug Administration is planning to limit the use of antimicrobials in food animals in an effort to stem the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the agency said Wednesday.

Some antimicrobials have historically been added to the feed and drinking water of livestock in order to allow them to gain more weight with less food, but some of them are also used to treat infections in humans. This has fed worries among health experts that the practice may play a role in the growing trend of bacteria that are immune to antibiotics, which also is a reason why experts advise people to take antibiotics only when medically necessary.

The FDA's plan focuses on antibiotics that are used both for human infections and as feed and water additives for food animals. In a guidance, the agency is laying out a plan for animal drug companies to voluntarily revise their product labeling so that it doesn't encourage their use in meat production and is asking the companies to notify the agency of their intent to sign onto the strategy within three months.

"Implementing this strategy is an important step forward in addressing antimicrobial resistance," FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine Michael Taylor said. "Based on our outreach, we have every reason to believe that animal pharmaceutical companies will support us in this effort."

The agency also has issued a proposed rule to update existing regulations relating to veterinary feed directive, or VFD drugs, and expand the oversight of veterinarians when they're used.

"This action promotes the judicious use of important antimicrobials to protect public health while ensuring that sick and at-risk animals receive the therapy they need," FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine director Bernadette Dunham said. "We realize that these steps represent changes for veterinarians and animal producers, and we have been working — and will continue to work — to make this transition as seamless as possible."

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