Industry reacts to FDA action on antibiotics

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Some members of the meat and poultry industry welcomed the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to limit the use of antibiotics in food animal production — but with reservations.

The FDA, in conjunction with the pharmaceutical drug community and animal producers, moved to limit the use of antibiotics in animal production for treating and controlling diseases. FDA published three documents that offer guidance toward reducing the incidence of antimicrobial resistance. But some stakeholders in the industry expressed concerns regarding industry compliance. Others were leery of federal regulations that could interfere with decision making at the producer level.

"The FDA has made a move in the right direction, but there's a long way to go," said Stephen McDonnell, chief executive officer of Bridgewater, NJ-based Applegate Farms, a processor of natural and organic meats and cheeses. "We know consumers want antibiotic misuse in animal agriculture to stop, and the recommendations issued today encourage the industry to do that, but fall well short of requiring it."

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) was pleased the FDA refrained from an outright ban on antibiotic use, but expressed concern that the agency’s decision was not based on peer-reviewed science and could set a precedent to take animal care and health decisions away from producers. Tom Talbot, a California beef producer, large animal veterinarian and current chairman of NCBA’s Cattle Health and Well-Being Committee, said in a written statement that “NCBA raised concern with FDA’s Guidance 209 in 2010 because the agency lacked the necessary science in its recommendations.”

Talbot said any evaluation of antimicrobial resistance should consider animal, human and industrial uses of antibiotics.

“While we appreciate the agency working with industry on the implementation of Guidance 209, we remain committed that a strong science foundation is critical before moving forward with this guidance,” Talbot said. “The goal of giving veterinarians greater oversight of antibiotic use in food animals is commendable but cattlemen are concerned with the feasibility of implementing the veterinary feed directives given practical hurdles, including a current shortage of veterinarians in many rural areas throughout the country and the increased record-keeping burden it could have on the day-to-day requirements veterinarians currently face.”

Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods said the willingness of drug companies and animal producers to work with the agency weighed in FDA’s decision against an outright ban.

The documents published in the Federal Register include a final guidance for industry titled, “The judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals” that recommends phasing out the agricultural production use of medically important drugs and phasing in veterinary oversight of therapeutic uses of the drugs. The second document is draft guidance, open for public comment, which will assist drug companies in voluntarily removing animal production uses of antibiotics from their FDA-approved product labels; adding, where appropriate, scientifically-supported disease prevention, control, and treatment uses; and changing the marketing status to include veterinary oversight.

The final document is a draft proposed veterinary feed directive regulation that is open for public comment and outlines ways veterinarians may authorize the use of certain animal drugs in feed, which is important to make the needed veterinary oversight feasible and efficient.

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