The Food and Drug Administration finally approved two long-overdue proposals this Wednesday to curb farmers’ frequent use of antibiotics as a way to slow the rapid growth of antibiotic-resistant diseases. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, at least 23,000 people a year are dying from drug-resistant superbugs. Though the announcement symbolizes a critical step forward, the FDA’s strategy depends on voluntary cooperation from the drug industry.
Antibiotics are often used on animals to make them grow faster on less feed and to protect them from disease in crowded, unsanitary conditions. This frequent overuse of such antibiotics, however, is leading to growing concerns of a major public health threat as increasing numbers people become infected with drug-resistant superbugs.
The recently approved plans are seen by some as the FDA’s first major victory towards cracking down on a critical public health concern. Others, however, are not convinced. Critics of plan say that because the changes are voluntary for drug companies, the move will largely be ineffective. In addition, a loophole would allow animal producers to continue their use of antibiotics for growth promotion so long as they claim the use necessary to prevent disease. The new guidelines will be in effect for the next three years, after which the FDA will reevaluate if there is a need for more binding regulation.
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