Statement on the U.S. FDA’s Reversal on Antibiotics Safeguards in Animal Farming

Contact: Dan Klotz, 202.887.8855


Washington, DC - 12/12/2008 - Laura Rogers, project director for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, today issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to reverse its plan to ban off-label usage of certain antibiotics in animal agriculture:

“The misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture helps fuel the increase in antibiotic-resistant infections – a fact long acknowledged by the American Medical Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and even the FDA.  Yet in another set-back for public health, the FDA reversed itself on the off-label use of cephalosporin – a family of antibiotics vitally important in human medicine – allowing this unrestricted use in industrial farm animal production to continue.

“Earlier this year, the agency had announced plans to ban all off-label uses in agriculture of these critical human drugs. Regrettably, the FDA changed its course.

“These important drugs are the only effective therapies for serious gastrointestinal diseases in children and also the best treatment for antibiotic-resistant infections in cancer patients.  Easing restrictions on the use of cephalosporin on factory farms jeopardizes the effectiveness of these drugs and needlessly imperils our public health.

“In addition, the overuse of human antibiotics in farm animals is driving up the cost of healthcare. For example, in 1998 the Institute of Medicine estimated that antibiotic-resistant bacteria generated an estimated $4 billion to $5 billion per year in extra costs to the U.S. healthcare system. 

“The incoming Administration and the new head of the FDA need to examine the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. They must take the advice of the doctors and other public health professionals who have raised the alarm about antibiotic misuse and put the health of people – particularly susceptible groups like the elderly and children – ahead of industry profits.  Change cannot come soon enough.”

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