Recently we got super excited because it finally seemed like the FDA might be doing something to curb massive antibiotic use in food. Of course it took a judge to kick the FDA into action, but we’ll take what we can get. Judge Theodore H. Katz of the Southern District of New York, acting on a lawsuit brought against the FDA by NRDC and partners, had ordered the FDA to initiate proceedings to withdraw approval for antibiotic use in animal feed, unless drug manufacturers prove in a hearing that said antibiotic use is safe for humans. However, judge order or not, the FDA managed to screw it up. Instead of setting any rules about antibiotics in livestock, the FDA issued a “Framework for the voluntary adoption of practices to ensure the appropriate or judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals.” Basically the FDA has nicely suggested (pdf) that the food industry consider not using antibiotics so frequently in livestock, unless of course, they still want to.

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Not only does this FDA guidance go against Judge Katz’s order but it goes against the FDA’s own advice. They’ve got pages of information at their website about the dangers of antibiotic misuse, noting, “Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.” The FDA goes on to say that they, “Believe that using medically important antimicrobial drugs to increase production in food-producing animals is not a judicious use,” but since their new rules are merely recommendations, not hard and fast rules, anyone can still use antibiotics in livestock as they see fit. If the FDA was willing to take their own advice, not to mention follow the court order, they’d create a real rule that limits antimicrobial drugs in livestock to situations where the drugs are necessary for ensuring animal health. Antibiotic resistance and the growth of super powerful germs aren’t some fairy tale. The CDC notes that misuse and overuse of antibiotics jeopardizes the usefulness of essential drugs, including causing, “Significant danger and suffering for people who have common infections that once were easily treatable with antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance results in longer-lasting illnesses, more doctor visits, extended hospital stays, the need for more expensive and toxic medications and even death.” The CDC also notes that children are particularly at risk as they have the highest rates of antibiotic use. Once again, the FDA fails to protect the American food supply and human health. What you can do to stay healthier is read food labels and avoid foods that contain antibiotics, which commonly include dairy and meat products.

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