The Food and Drug Administration announced regulations in December restricting the use of antibiotics to enhance growth in farm animals, and this week the majority of drug manufacturers agreed to comply.
Farmers who are customers of the compliant companies cannot use antibiotics for any other purpose than treating a sick animal. The new regulations are voluntary, but have been adopted by 25 of the 26 companies that provide antibiotics to farmers.
The FDA announced the regulations in response to the growing concern about the impact of animal antibiotics on public health.
According to statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention last September, widespread use of antimicrobial drugs in both animals and humans contributes to the creation of drug-resistant bacterial strains. Each year, 23,000 people in the United States die from an antibiotic-resistant infection.
Antibiotics can be added to the food and water supply of livestock as a means to enhance growth quickly without increasing food consumption. Director of Public Policy for Indiana Farm Bureau Megan Ritter, however, said that this practice is being phased out.
The new regulations now require veterinary prescriptions for antibiotics instead of providing the drugs over-the-counter. Ritter says access to a vet who can write the prescription will be challenging since the rate of graduating vets is declining.
“In certain areas of the country that may become more challenging if we don’t continue to encourage veterinarians to go into the business and have the availability of veterinarians to work with farmers in more remote areas,” Ritter said. “But I don’t see that being as big of a challenge in Indiana as it may be in other places.”
Drug companies have been given three years to comply with the regulations.