01/11/2012 - Last week, the Food and Drug Administration took a small step toward reducing the routine use of antibiotics in livestock, a practice that creates drug-resistant pathogens and threatens the effectiveness of some antibiotics in human medicine. It restricted the use of a class of antibiotics called cephalosporins. Because they require a prescription, farm veterinarians use them less than other antibiotics, like penicillin.
While the move is important, it is far from sufficient. In 2008, the F.D.A. proposed to tightly limit the use of cephalosporins, but this new rule falls well short of that, thanks to intense lobbying by farm and pharmaceutical industries. The new rule will ban the injection of the antibiotics into chicken eggs and halt the practice of giving large, sustained doses to cattle and pigs. But it still allows widespread use in animals like rabbits and ducks, and veterinarians will still be able to use the drugs in ways not specifically approved by the F.D.A.
The agency needs to deal squarely and swiftly with the threat posed by agricultural antibiotics.
Read the full editorial, F.D.A. Creeps Forward, on the New York Times' Web site.