Here is the break down. The FDA released a Withdrawl of Notices of Opportunity for Hearing (NOOH) on December 22 for “Penicillin and Tetracycline used in animal feed. What it says is this:
In 1977 the FDA decided to not allow certain uses of antibiotics in food grade animals because research that started in Britain in 1969, and was followed by a task foce that included the National Centers for Disease Control, the FDA, and the CDC, found that the use was a human health hazard, an animal based hazard, and weakend antibiotic effectiveness. There is plenty to read on the history of this Notice and rightly justifies its purpose with the repeated recommendations given by multiple agencies.
Although these recommendation existed and there has been no strong evidence to contradict them, the FDA has decided withdraw that Notice and allow farmers to use antibiotics at there own discretion. More specifically they will allow judicious uses which are “uses that are appropriate and necessary to maintaining the health of humans and animals.”
Subtherapeutic- the use of antibiotics for anything except for sickness. Doses are small, generally less than 50 milligrams per ton of animal weight. At this dosage, antibiotics can act as growth promoters that increase the animal’s output and value. This type of use has increased the daily weight gain of animals, has improved the feed-to-weight gain ratio, increased the voluntary feed intake of the animal, and decreased illness and morbidity.
Therapeutic- is, of course, to treat sickness.
What’s the big deal?
Advocates encourage the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics because the increasing demand for animal products. But there use mainly serves to compensate for improper animal husbandry techniques, like the use of confined and unsanitary living conditions, and the feeding of an unnatural diet to the animal populations.
While there seems to be benefits of using antibiotics in this manner, there are also many consequences. One important consequence is the production of antibiotic-resistant strains of common food-borne illnesses. A second consequence is the diminishing ability of humans to treat common diseases that were once easily treated by our current drug arsenal. As antibiotic usage becomes more common, more diseases become resistant to the antibiotics being used to treat them. Thus, when humans become sick, it is more difficult to treat the patient effectively. The use of antibiotics in a subtherapeutic manner only hastens this process. Third, studies have shown that, as animal herd size grows, the use of antibiotics becomes preventive rather than therapeutic. Therefore, as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) become a more common method of animal husbandry, antibiotic usage will increase. If animals were raised in healthier conditions, the use of antibiotics as a preventative would not be as necessary. Lastly, antibiotic usage also has been linked to the management style of the individual agricultural operator. It is simply an individual’s choice to use antibiotics extensively, not necessarily a requirement.
On December 15th USDA issued a recall of ground beef contaminated with Salmonella which caused several people to be hospitalized. The recall release states that “Salmonella Typhimurium has initially tested resistant to multiple commonly prescribed antibiotics…”
The FDA issued its withdraw 7 days later.