FDA says no more medically important antibiotics for livestock — Finally!

Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock

A new rule that aims to safeguard essential antibiotics for humans by limiting their use in food animals is now fully in effect.

Under the Food and Drug Administration policy, antibiotics that have been designated “medically important” — in other words, they’re needed to treat people — cannot legally be given to healthy animals to speed their growth. The policy, three years in the making, required producers of agricultural antibiotics to change labeling on the drugs to make clear they should not be used for so-called growth promotion. All manufacturers agreed to abide by the new rule.

The policy also requires that from now on, food animals can only be given medically important drugs under the supervision of a veterinarian — a move designed to restrict their use to the treatment of animal illnesses.

An FDA report on antibiotic use in food-producing animals released just before Christmas revealed that sales of medically important antibiotics rose by 2 percent in 2015, and that from 2009 to 2015 sales of these drugs to the food animal sector increased by 26 percent. The increased sales in 2015 could be the result of a commensurate rise in food animals produced — but critics of the heavy use of these drugs in agriculture note sales haven’t come down…

Scientists and public health professionals have long warned that the increasing use of antibiotics in the rearing of food animals such as chickens, pigs and cattle, and farmed fish and seafood is fueling a rise in so-called superbugs — bacteria capable of evading the drugs.

That puts at risk procedures that have revolutionized modern medicine. Organ transplants, cardiac bypass surgeries, even safe caesarean section births are an accepted part of medical practice but could become much more dangerous to perform if superbugs continue to proliferate…

As things currently stand, antibiotics can be used to prevent illness, which can also lead to prolonged use. Advocates for more judicious use of antibiotics in agriculture argue that this is growth promotion by another name. They insist disease prevention goals should be achieved through better and more humane production practices that reduce the disease risks associated with factory farming.

And, so, the battle is won; but, not the war. Humane, healthy conditions for livestock are important to the health of consumers in more ways than one. Most reasonable, informed people know this. Politicians and their appointees invoke the ever-present American god of sophistry to pretend otherwise.

Expert report condemns continued antibiotic use in US livestock

U.S. regulators and livestock producers have failed to curb the use of antibiotics in cattle, pigs and poultry despite concerns that excessive use in meat production will reduce the drugs’ effectiveness in humans, a panel of experts said.

“Meaningful change is unlikely in the future,” concluded the 14-member panel, assembled by Johns Hopkins University, in a report released on Tuesday that quickly drew protests from livestock industry groups.

The release marked the fifth anniversary of a landmark 2008 Pew Charitable Trust report that called for an end to the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics by livestock producers, as well as an end to practices such as tiny cages for laying hens…

The Johns Hopkins’ report said “additional scientific evidence has strengthened the case that these (non-therapeutic) uses pose unnecessary and unreasonable public health risks” of allowing bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics.

“We have even better science to support the recommendations we have made,” said Mary Wilson, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. “We are, in fact, running out of antibiotics. We are seeing infections that are untreatable.”

More than 2 million Americans are sickened by antibiotic-resistant infections each year and 23,000 of them die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control And Prevention.

Livestock industry leaders said “Blah, blah, blah”

Continue reading

Are livestock antibiotics contributing to human obesity?

By altering the fine balance of gut bacteria which influence our metabolism, even small amounts of the drugs entering the food chain could have caused obesity rates to rise, researchers claim.

Although the use of antibiotics on farms is now banned in the EU due to the risk of germs becoming drug-resistant, it was commonplace in the 1950s and is still permitted in the US…

Prof Martin Blaser of New York University, who led the study, said: “The rise of obesity around the world is coincident with widespread antibiotic use, and our studies provide an experimental linkage…

For decades farmers in Britain and around the world fed low doses of antibiotics to cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens because the drug caused the animals to gain weight.

In the new study, researchers studied the effects of penicillin and other common antibiotics on weaning mice, using doses similar to the non-medical amounts used by farmers.

Their results, published in the Nature journal, showed that the drugs altered the balance of bacteria in their gut, causing metabolic changes which led them to gain 10 to 15 per cent more fat than untreated mice…

A related study published earlier this week by the same authors showed that young children who had taken small amounts of antibiotics were more likely to have higher amounts of body fat…

This study adds to the body of knowledge suggesting several mechanisms all of which tie antibiotics used to fatten animals to human weight gain – regardless of the lies rationales used by farmers to justify the drugs.

Court orders FDA to review antibiotic use in livestock — finally

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday said it was studying a federal judge’s order that it consider withdrawing two popular antibiotics from use in livestock. In a ruling issued Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Theodore Katz said that the FDA must issue notices to drug manufacturers that the drugs will be withdrawn unless the companies can prove they’re safe. Katz didn’t issue a full ban — suggesting the manufacturers should be given a hearing to make their case.

The suit was originally brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which argued that the FDA has allowed livestock producers to use popular antibiotics penicillin and tetracycline in feed for more than 30 years for purposes other than treatment of illnesses.

The NRDC claims “the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animal feed can lead to the growth and spread of drug-resistant bacteria capable of infecting people.” Antibiotic resistant bacteria are fast-moving, can be deadly, and can infect otherwise healthy individuals.

In its statement, the FDA said, “We are studying the opinion and considering appropriate next steps…”

As they have been saying for the last 35 years.

The suit alleged that the FDA’s failure to withdraw approval of penicillin and tetracycline after the 1977 research was unlawful and violated the administrative procedure act.

According to the NRDC, 80% of antibiotics used in the United States is used in livestock

Meanwhile, the ruling isn’t sitting well with beef producers. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association noted its dissent in a statement saying “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

Overdue. Every time this has been brought up – decisions have been overdue. The “new” FDA made noises about doing something – but hasn’t yet. The medical-industrial complex certainly isn’t in any hurry to reduce the excess amount of antibiotics produced.

Free rides for Rick Perry on corporate jets are just part of the job

Pilgrim Chickens on the left – with his favorite chicken plucker

On a July morning in 2008, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and several aides boarded a plane for Washington to lobby on ethanol use, an issue important to corn growers and livestock owners in his state.

The growers favored federal rules requiring the use of the corn-based fuel in gasoline, but beef and chicken suppliers said the rules would raise the price of feed stocks. Mr. Perry was firmly in the livestock camp, and he took his case straight to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, urging him to waive the ethanol mandate to lower the cost of corn.

While executives from the livestock industry did not attend Mr. Perry’s private meeting at the E.P.A., the governor would not have made it there without them — literally. The Hawker 800XP plane that Mr. Perry and his team flew from Austin to Washington and back was provided by Lonnie Pilgrim, one of the world’s largest chicken producers and a leading critic of the ethanol mandate…The poultry magnate also flew the governor to Washington in June to take part in a news conference on the issue.

The two trips, each valued at $9,179, were among more than 200 flights worth a total of $1.3 million that Mr. Perry has accepted — free — from corporate executives and wealthy donors during 11 years as governor, according to an analysis of Texas Ethics Commission records by The New York Times.

Although many of the trips were for political or ceremonial events — not unusual for elected officials — others involved governmental functions, including some that were of interest to the planes’ owners. As a result, a group of well-heeled businessmen has effectively helped underwrite some of Mr. Perry’s activities as governor.

The head of a Texas oil refinery spent almost $20,000 flying Mr. Perry and his staff to a trade meeting in Mexico, where the governor asked Mexican energy officials to consider more joint ventures with Texas oil companies. Other Texas business owners have paid Mr. Perry’s way to Washington to lobby on immigration, testify before Congress and meet with the homeland security secretary.

Mr. Perry’s travels adhere to Texas ethics laws, and he is far from alone in accepting gifts of air travel. But among politicians he stands out for taking private flights for activities that are considered part of his job as governor. That is different from campaign travel or the sort of quasi-official trips for which officeholders normally use private planes, like attending a conference or giving a speech.

Texas ethics laws, of course, is a contradiction in terms. Ethics has little or nothing to do how Rick Perry or pretty much any other Texan governs. Taking care of the Big Boys is what counts. The Texas legislature will make certain laws are bent, broken, or stapled together to allow for as much influence as “grassroots” organization like the Petroleum Club or Chickenpluckers International require.

RTFA for lots of details, anecdotes, the sort of corrupt practices considered trivial in Texas.

Cattle “cloned from dead animals” – Oh, the horror!

Which are clones – which aren’t?

Some of the cattle cloned to boost food production in the US have been created from the cells of dead animals, according to a US cloning company. Farmers say it is being done because it is only possible to tell that the animal’s meat is of exceptionally high quality by inspecting its carcass.

US scientists are using a variety of techniques to assess which animals have exceptional qualities. These attributes include meat quality, productivity or longevity.

These exceptional animals are cloned to be used as breeding stock, with the aim of raising the quality of herds on beef, dairy and pig farms in the US…

The head of the leading US animal cloning company has said that European farmers will fall behind the rest of the world unless they are allowed to use such techniques to improve the productivity of their livestock…

Brady Hicks of the JR Simplot company in Idaho said his organisation was among many that had tried out the technique successfully…

“We identify carcasses that have certain carcass characteristics that we want, but it’s too late to reproduce the genetics of the animal. But through cloning we can resurrect that animal…”

Cloning is not used by livestock farmers in Europe, and there are moves by some members of the European Parliament to ban it altogether. Mark Walton believes that would be a mistake.

“If I were a European farmer and my competitors in the US, China and South America were using the technology, I’d be concerned about losing all access to it,” he said.

It is early days for cloning in US agriculture. There are only a thousand clones in the one hundred million-strong American cattle herd…

Disingenuous. That hundred-million-strong herd includes hundreds of thousands of offspring of cloned animals. Do you think farmers are buying cloned bulls for 5-figures just to gaze at them? They go to work siring offspring.

Two years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that meat and milk from cloned animals were safe to eat. Ever since then, products from the offspring of cloned animals have entered the food chain

I always ask the same question and get the “Uh, no” answer. Can anyone who’s panicking over cloned food animals tell the difference in a blind test between meat that is – or isn’t – cloned?

Environmental and social impact of the ‘Livestock Revolution’

Global meat production has tripled in the past three decades and could double its present level by 2050, according to a new report on the livestock industry by an international team of scientists and policy experts. The impact of this “livestock revolution” is likely to have significant consequences for human health, the environment and the global economy…

“This is the first time that we’ve looked at the social, economic, health and environmental impacts of livestock in an integrated way and presented solutions for reducing the detrimental effects of the industry and enhancing its positive attributes,” Harold A. Mooney said.

Among the key findings in the report are:

More than 1.7 billion animals are used in livestock production worldwide and occupy more than one-fourth of the Earth’s land.

Production of animal feed consumes about one-third of total arable land.

Livestock production accounts for approximately 40 percent of the global agricultural gross domestic product.

The livestock sector, including feed production and transport, is responsible for about 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Eating less meat helps. Eating less animal fat helps you live longer.

RTFA – for lots of analysis and stats – and especially links to related sites. Lots of info.

I enjoy consuming new information as much as barbecued pork. 🙂

FDA proposes limits for antibiotics in U.S. livestock


The Food and Drug Administration believes antibiotics should be used on livestock only to cure or prevent disease and not to promote growth, a common use.

Principal deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein said restrictions on livestock use would reduce the opportunity for bacteria to develop resistance to drugs used by humans.

Critics of the heavy antibiotic use in livestock, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, estimate 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used on food animals, mostly in tiny doses that promote weight gain or more efficient feed consumption…

“Purposes other than for the advancement of animal or human health should not be considered judicious use” and not allowed, Sharfstein said in a statement for a House hearing. “Eliminating these uses will not compromise the safety of food.

“FDA also believes that the use of medications for prevention and control should be under the supervision of a veterinarian,” he said. This would mean no over-the-counter sales of antibiotics to farmers and ranchers.

Sharfstein told reporters afterward that his testimony was a statement of FDA principles. He said there was no administration or FDA position on a bill that would phase out nontherapeutic use in livestock of seven classes of antibiotics — penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides, lincosamides, streptogramins, aminoglycosides, sulfonamides — and any other drug used to treat bacterial illness in people.

Identical phase-out bills were filed in the House and Senate on March 17 but have languished. The hearing on Monday by the House Rules Committee was the first in either chamber.

They’re still in the “my lobbyist said this” versus “your lobbyist said that” stage of considering legislation in Congress, of course.

Wouldn’t it be a pleasant switch if our Congress-critters considered our well-being to be as important as their after-Congress careers.

Voluntary livestock traceback participation isn’t working. Duh!

I thought you knew where it came from?

A disappointing one-third of cattle, hog and poultry farmers are enrolled in a livestock traceback system intended as a primary U.S. defense against mad cow and other diseases, said an Agriculture Department official.

To be effective, participation must be at least 70 percent, said USDA chief veterinarian John Clifford. He said low participation could hamper disease control and make it harder to restore sales to nations who ban U.S. meat.

“Unfortunately, a disappointing rate of producer participation — currently only 35 percent — hampers our ability to achieve animal traceability outbreak,” he told a joint hearing of House Agriculture and Homeland Security subcommittees…

The government embraced a voluntary tracking system as a response to the first U.S. case of mad cow disease in December 2003. Critics, including some members of Congress, say the program, which has cost $130 million, is not working. Many have called for a mandatory system and hinted they may withhold funding until it is put in place.

Of course, it’s not working. Virtually every “voluntary” program which tracks problems affecting profits even for a few – are rejected by the whole of any sector of our wonderful “free” marketplace. We’d still be laboring in Upton Sinclair’s JUNGLE if it wasn’t for regulation and oversight.

This is just the predictable result of more neocon claptrap premised upon avoiding responsibility.