The FDA recently released a report estimating the amount of antibiotics used in food-producing animals in 2009 at 29 million pounds.
Past estimates have put the number between 17.8 and 24.6 million pounds, but no official data had been released by the government until this year’s report.
In 2001, the Union of Concerned Scientists, a group advocating against non-medical antibiotic use in agriculture, estimated that up to 70% of all antibiotics sold in the US are routinely used in industrial farms.
Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), a former public health microbiologist, commented on the report, saying:
This report illustrates the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production and makes a strong case for some common-sense limits on antibiotic use. We are putting millions of pounds of antibiotics into the food supply unnecessarily every year. This cannot continue and it’s my hope that these new data from the FDA will encourage even more members of Congress to join me next year when I reintroduce this legislation. Moreover, the FDA must move fast to issue strong regulations on antibiotic usage in agriculture.
Rep. Slaughter introduced the 2009 Prevention of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) that would set regulations limiting antibiotic use in livestock.
Earlier this year, the FDA released guidelines saying that antibiotics in meat pose a “serious public health threat” because of the contribution to creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The agency recommended that producers refrain from drug use to speed growth and reduce feeding costs, and instead use them only when medically necessary.
One example of animal-derived antibiotic resistant bacteria is MRSA ST398, a strain that emerged in pigs and was passed to farmers in the Netherlands in 2004.
In one University of Iowa study, MRSA was found in 70% of the 209 pigs tested. And according to the Center for Disease Control, more people now die of MRSA infections than of AIDs.