12/21/2011 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday called for limiting the use of antibiotics to cases when animals are already sick in what public health advocates are calling a sharp change of stance for the agency that regulates meat and poultry.
The USDA in the past has defended the use of antibiotics for disease prevention, which includes fortifying healthy animals raised in unsanitary conditions. Critics — including some Democrats in Congress — say the abundant use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is putting people at risk by creating disease-resistant superbugs.
"I think there is an understanding and appreciation for the need for … a concerted effort … to ensure the appropriate and judicious use of antibiotics," Vilsack said. "Working with the farm community, I think it's clear we would like to see those antibiotics used in the context of disease control and disease response as opposed to any other reason or purpose for using them. And we're working with state veterinarians and veteranians' associations and land-grant universities to ensure that there's a better understanding of the importance of using antibiotics judiciously."
"We agree with Secretary Vilsack that industrial farms should use antibiotics only for disease treatment and control — that is, when animals or herds are sick — and not for growth promotion and routine addition to feed to compensate for overcrowded or unsanitary conditions," said Erik Olson, director of food programs for the Pew Health Group.
Read the full blog post, Vilsack Calls for Limiting Antibiotic Use in Animal Agriculture, on The Hill's Healthwatch blog.