Antibiotic Policy Primer
2013 promises to be a busy year when it comes to antibiotic policies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Congress will be pursuing multiple paths to curb the overuse of these life-saving drugs in meat and poultry production, and we are going to need your help every step of the way to ensure we cross the finish line!
Here’s a primer to help you keep all of the proposed policies straight.
Eliminating the Use of Antibiotics as a Substitute for Good Animal Husbandry
Industrial meat and poultry producers often rely on antibiotics to make their food animals grow faster and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions—and these practices are breeding superbugs that can infect us.
Last April, the FDA issued a pair of “guidances” designed to eliminate these practices. The first, known as Guidance #209, is a final document that declared antibiotic use for growth promotion and other economic purposes are inappropriate and should be ended. The second, known as Guidance #213, is a draft document that proposed to the drug industry how to comply with #209.
Nearly 220,000 people submitted comments to the FDA last summer, urging the agency to strengthen these measures. We have identified two major concerns that FDA should address:
First, the FDA must clarify the policy so that it eliminates the use of antibiotics not just to make animals grow faster but also to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. In practice, these uses can be very similar, and both threaten human health.
Second, the agency must lay out a plan to monitor whether its policies are actually reducing antibiotic overuse. It should accomplish this by collecting and reporting more antibiotic sales and use data.
Be on the lookout for action alerts in 2013 to help us urge the FDA to strengthen Guidance #213 and finalize it as soon as possible.
Putting Veterinarians in the Driver’s Seat
While you cannot walk into a pharmacy and pick up antibiotics without a prescription, you can buy these drugs over the counter for use on farms. This lack of oversight is a big reason why antibiotics are so overused. Fortunately, the FDA took initial steps last year to increase veterinarian involvement of antibiotic use in meat and poultry production.
In 2013, we will be urging the FDA to take the next step in this process: issuing a draft Veterinary Feed Directive
(VFD) regulation.Reporting More Antibiotic Sales Data
Since 2009, the FDA has reported annually
how many antibiotics are sold for use on industrial farms. While the reports have been enlightening—for the first time, we discovered that more than 70 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in the United States were intended for food animals—they are missing some critical data. And as noted, most of those antibiotics are available as over-the-counter drugs for livestock and poultry.
In 2013, we will work to broaden the agency’s ability to answer more key questions: How many antibiotics are being used just to make animals grow faster and to compensate for unsanitary conditions? How many drugs are sold over the counter versus by prescription? What types of animals are getting which antibiotics?
Fortunately, on Feb. 26, 2013, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced the Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act (H.R. 820) in the U.S. House of Representatives. On May 8, 2013, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Antimicrobial Data Collection Act (S. 895). The bills would authorize the FDA to collect and report data that would shed light on how antibiotics are being used on industrial farms.
Comprehensive Legislation to Curb Antibiotic Overuse
Introduced by Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) on March 14, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) (H.R. 1150) would protect eight classes of antibiotics important for treating sick people. It would withdraw their use from food animal production unless animals or herds are sick with disease or unless drug companies can prove that their use does not harm human health. This bill is co-sponsored by 47 members of Congress.
On June 27, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (S. 1256), a bipartisan bill that would also eliminate certain antibiotic-related practices that contribute to the rise of drug-resistant bacteria and endanger human health. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) are original co-sponsors of the bill.
Getting all of these policies adopted by Congress or the FDA will take hard work, but you can help! Please stay tuned for more news from us and action alerts asking you to write to your members of Congress and the administration in support of these bills and agency actions.
Surveys of the animal production industry by the U.S. Department of Agriculture demonstrate that many farms and ranches administer antibiotics to healthy animals at low doses to offset overcrowding and poor sanitation and to accelerate livestock growth—practices that the medical and public health communities document as a significant factor in human antibiotic resistance. In 2013, FDA took steps to address these concerns.
MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a type of bacteria that can infect a person’s skin, bones, lungs, heart, brain, and blood. Unlike common staph, MRSA does not respond to traditional antibiotics such as penicillin, making it more difficult and costlier to treat, and more lethal. More info
To prepare for the big game this Sunday, some of America’s top athletes will run drills and watch film to anticipate the other team’s strategy—but even the best players cannot predict what might be their fiercest opposition. More info
Like rivals on the gridiron, superbugs and antibiotic drugs are battling for supremacy. Check out the players on Team Antibiotic and Team Superbug. 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
Industrialized poultry production in the United States delivers considerable efficiencies, but the same system carries significant, hidden costs for the environment, for many communities where chickens are raised for industrial production, and sometimes for the chicken growers themselves, according to a report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts. More info
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a set of policies to curb the overuse of antibiotics on industrial farms. Using these drugs in animals and people contributes to the spread of resistant bacteria that can infect and hospitalize people. About 70 percent of medically important antibiotics sold in this country are for food animals, and most are used in feed without supervision of a veterinarian. More info
The New York State Parent Teacher Association made history at its 117th Annual Convention by becoming the first state PTA to take a stand against antibiotic overuse in livestock. On November 16, delegates passed a resolution calling on Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to protect human health from antibiotic overuse on industrial meat and poultry farms. More info
This Thanksgiving, as Americans think of family and feasting, consumers can use the opportunity to encourage a food production system that promotes and protects our health. More info
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
November 18-24 is Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, an annual campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that promotes the importance of appropriate antibiotic use. The human health and industrial farming campaign of The Pew Charitable Trust has created an interactive quiz to highlight the overuse of antibiotics in animal food production and test your knowledge of the issue. 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
On Oct. 22, 2013, Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health published a report on the state of industrial animal agriculture. It looked back at a 2008 report from the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and assessed the government’s progress in addressing the panel’s recommendations. Here is a list of frequently asked questions about the Pew commission’s work and legacy. More info