The FDA cracks down on antibiotics

Big news from the FDA. And for once it’s good news. Or at least decent news. The agency is cracking down on use of antibiotics in food-producing animals.

What’s driving this action? A growing problem called antimicrobial resistance. You might have heard about it before. It means that bad bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics used to treat infections. Which can be a life-threatening problem.

The overuse of antibiotics to treat illnesses that don’t require them–like colds–plays a major role in this issue. But farmers’ use of antibiotics in animals increases exposure–and compounds the problem–even further.

So the FDA is asking farmers to voluntarily stop using antibiotics to make animals grow faster. It’s not an all-out ban against antibiotics. Grocery stores aren’t being forced to carry only organic meat. (If only that were true…) But at the very least, this is a step forward.

Of course, it comes a whopping 35 years after the FDA first issued a formal finding that use of antibiotics should be banned altogether. Under the current proposal, farmers can still use antibiotics “to prevent, control or treat illnesses in food-producing animals under the supervision of a veterinarian.”

Something’s better than nothing, I guess. Honestly, I’m amazed that the FDA has even taken this much of a stance.

But, the reality is, even though it’s a step in the right direction, this measure is still a far cry from organic farming.

Plus, the FDA’s halfhearted attempt at limiting antibiotic use won’t go into effect for another three years. And you know as well as I do that anything can happen in that amount of time.

So your best bet is still to stick with organic meat.

To be certified as “organic,” farmers aren’t allowed to use antibiotics in their animal feed at all. Plus, the animals must be allowed to graze, eat a balanced diet, and live in clean housing to maximize the animals’ health without chemicals.

So it’s simply better for you any way you look at it.

“FDA plans to cut antibiotics in food animals,”, 4/11/12