28.7 million pounds of antibiotics used in US livestock
14 Dec 2010
The agency did not, however, report the data in a way that makes it possible to distinguish the quantities of drugs used to treat sick animals from those used to promote growth or prevent disease – a key factual dispute between the public health community and organizations representing meat production, pharmaceuticals and food-animal medicine, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
In a statement on its website, the FDA said breaking out the data in that way would have disclosed confidential business information. The agency declined to comment further. The AVMA, the nation’s largest veterinary organization with roughly 80,000 members, does not plan to publicly respond to the report, spokesman David Kirkpatrick said.
The figures are the first released under a data-reporting provision passed by Congress in 2008. The new requirement was meant to inform the national debate about the proper use of antimicrobial drugs in food animals, and its link to drug-resistant infections in humans.
Many in the public health community believe that the practice of giving low doses of antibiotics to cattle, pigs and poultry that are not clinically sick promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and could be phased out without significant consequences. The meat and poultry industry, drug makers and the AVMA oppose curtailing such uses, maintaining that doing so would compromise animal health and food safety while delivering little or no benefit in the fight against drug-resistant infections in humans.
Legislation to restrict the use of drugs for growth promotion and disease prevention in food animals as been introduced in Congress several times but has never advanced beyond committee.