By Donald Kennedy
Donald Kennedy was commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from 1977 to 1979. He is professor emeritus of environmental science at Stanford University.
When I was commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency’s national advisory committee recommended in 1977 that we eliminate an agricultural practice that threatened human health. Routinely feeding low doses of antibiotics to healthy livestock, our scientific advisory committee warned, was breeding drug-resistant bacteria that could infect people. We scheduled hearings to begin the process of curtailing the use of penicillin and other antibiotics for this purpose, but Congress halted the effort before it started.
Today, the science is even clearer that antibiotic overuse in agriculture is dangerous — yet the same risks persist. Fortunately, the FDA appears poised to act by instituting a measure known as Guidance 213. This voluntary policy instructs pharmaceutical companies to stop marketing certain antibiotics for animal production purposes. Some public health advocates want the agency to make the restrictions mandatory, but voluntary guidance can work — if it is finalized. The agency issued a draft version of its policy in April 2012 and received public comments, as required, but the comment period closed about a year ago. Drugmakers have been left awaiting further instruction.
A far better solution would be to improve the crowding and poor sanitation that make food animals susceptible to disease in the first place. Action by the FDA would be the initial step to encourage companies to make such changes and stop relying on massive overuse of antibiotics.
The FDA should finalize Guidance 213, tell the public how data will be collected to ensure that its voluntary strategy is working and then, if antibiotic misuse continues unabated, apply the full force of regulation. It has been 36 years since the agency moved to restrict injudicious antibiotic practices that threatened the public’s health. It should not wait any longer to finish the job.
- Date added:
- Aug 23, 2013
Chris Linaman, executive chef at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, WA, is dedicated to creating a more sustainable food system by supporting growers and producers who raise food without the routine use of antibiotics that endanger the public’s health. Working in partnership with Health Care Without Harm and Overlake’s administration, Chris has created a comprehensive sustainable food purchasing policy for Overlake Hospital that has resulted in many impressive achievements in just a short time.More info
Two former FDA commissioners – David Kessler (1990-1997) and Donald Kennedy (1977-1979) – wrote to OMB Director Sylvia Matthews Burwell urging her to take action on antibiotics in agricultural feed.More info
SuperChefs Against Superbugs, an initiative of the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, is a movement of chefs nationwide who have expressed their support of ending the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in food animal production. As a result, the SuperChefs are urging the Food and Drug Administration to strengthen its antibiotic policies.More info
In comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Pew asked the agency to improve the way it reports annual sales of antibiotics for use in food animal production. Chief among its recommendations, Pew urged the FDA to amend the definition of “therapeutic” antibiotic use to more clearly exclude inappropriate uses for so-called “disease prevention” purposes that, in practice, are similar or identical to growth promotion.More info
Organizations representing the medical, public health, and sustainable agriculture communities are urging the Obama administration to end antibiotic overuse and misuse in food animal production. They asked President Obama to direct the Office of Management and Budget to finalize Food and Drug Administration Guidance #213 and issue a proposed rule on the Veterinary Feed Directive in order to initiate the three-year phase-out of growth promotion and production-related uses of antibiotics.More info
So far this year, more than 300 people have gotten sick from bacteria called Salmonella heidelberg. Almost three-quarters of them live in California. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that chicken produced in three Central California processing facilities is the "likely source of this outbreak" and that the bacteria are "resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics."More info
Latest Foodborne Illnesses Show Links Between Farm Antibiotic Use and Resistant Bacteria in U.S. Poultry SupplyAn ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg this year has already sickened nearly 300 people who consumed contaminated chicken, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More info
This week, The Pew Charitable Trusts delivered a letter signed by 530 chefs to Sam Kass, executive director of Let’s Move! and senior policy advisor for nutrition at the White House, urging the Obama administration to finalize policies to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics and to protect people from resistant superbugs.More info
Consumers across the United States are demanding meat and poultry raised without antibiotics—and large producers, restaurants, and other institutions are listening. Following is a list of some leading companies offering responsibly produced food.More info
Decades have passed since FDA first tried – and failed – to restrict antibiotic use on industrial farms, a practice that contributes to the development of drug resistant bacteria that can infect people. Ask President Obama to finish the jobMore info
Jeffco Public Schools is the largest school district in Colorado with nearly 86,000 students and about 12,000 employees. On Sept. 18, 2013—Colorado Proud Day—the school system began serving chicken raised without antibiotics to its students, along with other fresh, locally produced food. Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services Linda Stoll answered some questions about the importance of Jeffco’s new menu item.More info