WASHINGTON – A coalition of public health and environmental advocates petitioned the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday to ban the use of seven classes of antibiotics commonly used on farms to speed the growth of livestock.
On Capitol Hill, Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., reintroduced a bill that would require the same thing.
The advocates and legislators said widespread use of the antibiotics on farms is jeopardizing the effectiveness of closely related antibiotics used to treat human disease. Because bacteria inevitably grow resistant to antibiotics they encounter, increased use – whether to treat children or increase the size of chickens and hogs – will result in greater resistance and gradually make the drugs ineffective, scientists say.
The FDA, which took the unusual step of trying to ban the agricultural use of one class of antibiotics in 2000, is now assessing whether it should do the same with others, including penicillins and tetracyclines. The earlier action has been tied up by a legal challenge by the manufacturer. The petition, filed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Environmental Defense, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Public Health Association and the Food Animal Concerns Trust, called on the agency to hasten that process.
“While we hope that the FDA will quickly grant the petition, history demonstrates that the FDA can take up to 20 years to withdraw an agricultural drug from the market,” said Karen Florini, a lawyer with Environmental Defense.