FDA changes stance on antibiotics after criticism

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has decided to stop trying to regulate antibiotics in the nation's meat supply, according to this story at the International Business Times website. (And then, all of a sudden, it does. See update below.)

The U.S. Food and Drug and Administration announced only days before Christmas that it has decided to back off a 34-year attempt to regulate the use of antibiotics in livestock feed for animals intended for human consumption, despite mounting scientific evidence that has linked the practice to the development of potentially fatal antibiotic-resistant superbugs in humans.

With no other notice aside from an obscure posting in the Federal Register on Dec. 22, the FDA declared it will now focus on encouraging "voluntary reform" within the industry instead of enforcing actual regulatory action, in addition to the "promotion of the judicious use of antimicrobials in the interest of public health." The agricultural industry began administering livestock feed with small doses of antibiotics in the 1950s, not to treat sick animals, but to attack bacteria that animals' would typically expend energy to fight off. Consuming low-levels of antibiotics allows livestock to fatten up faster and more efficiently, from a producers point of view.

Some experts say the current order may be part of the agency’s effort to deflect criticism after its decision in December to back out of its previous plan targeting prophylatctic antibiotics.

Read the entire article, by Ashley Portero, here.

As Creative Loafing has reported in the past, there is a link between antibiotics in meat and antibiotic-resistant diseases:

Bacteria evolve faster than we do; so, they not only become accustomed to the drugs — they get stronger, leading to antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), to name a few. In fact, the World Health Organization calls the consequences of antibiotic resistance "severe," adding it can lead to longer-duration, more severe illnesses and even death.

Fortunately, an easy way to avoid overdosing on antibiotics is to stop eating the foods that contain them.

Read the rest of "The Joy of Grass-fed Beef" here.

Full disclosure and an anecdotal example: I have had MRSA five times. I believe I picked it up at the gym. Frankly, I thought it would kill me since I couldn't figure out how to eradicate it from my home. Never one to run to the doctor for a sniffle, I've also never taken antibiotics unnecessarily. I sought help from the late UNC Charlotte biologist and MRSA expert, Dr. Michael Hudson. He told me to never use antibacterial soap again, and to start eating organic foods, which don't contain antibiotics. I followed his advice and haven't had MRSA since.

Read "Throw Your Soap Away Right Now," a story written for UNC Charlotte's University Times in 2008 that includes more of Dr. Hudson's advice on how to avoid MRSA.

UPDATE:
ABC News is reporting that the FDA has now decided to restrict some antibiotics:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an order Wednesday restricting farmers and livestock veterinarians from giving livestock one class of drugs that are commonly used to treat infectious diseases in humans.

The class of drugs called cephalosporin is commonly used to treat pneumonia, strep throat, and urinary and skin infections. But farmers and veterinarians also prescribe the injection drug for illnesses in animals that are not listed on the drug’s label.

Federal regulators fear the more it’s used liberally in animals, the higher the likelihood the drug will lose its effectiveness in humans.

Starting in April, federal regulators will require restricting so-called “extra-label” use in cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys to only certain instances in an effort to stave off the threat of antibiotic resistance in humans.

The decision comes after the agency announced it was withdrawing its plan to limit the use of antibiotics like penicillin and tetracycline that are used in the feed of healthy livestock.

Read the entire article here.

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