FDA reports increase in US sales of antibiotics for animals

by Erica Shaffer
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WASHINGTON – US sales of antibiotics for use in animals produced for food increased 22 percent from 2009 through 2014, and 4 percent from 2013 through 2014, the Food and Drug Administration said in its annual summary of antibiotic sales.

FDA also found that domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in food-producing animals increased 23 percent from 2009 through 2014, and increased 3 percent from 2013 through 2014.

Rep. Louise Slaughter sharply criticized the FDA, saying in a statement that the agency’s policies regarding antibiotic use in food-producing animals “have been toothless in the face of continued, widespread misuse” of medically important antibiotics.

“Over just the last five years, the FDA’s new data proves that the misuse of medically essential antibiotics has skyrocketed 23 percent,” Slaughter said. “The increased use of antibiotics over the last year is particularly disgraceful, since it came after the FDA issued voluntary guidance they claimed would actually reduce the use of antibiotics in agriculture. The FDA knows that the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture leads to increased antibiotic resistance but has so far refused to act. That’s why I’m calling on the FDA to immediately prohibit the use of medically important antibiotics in agriculture—just like the rest of the world is doing.”

Speaking to Reuters, Ron Phillips, spokesman for the Animal Health Institute, noted that sales did not equal use. Also, the 2012 Retail Meat Report and the 2013 Retail Meat Interim Report released in April found that antimicrobial resistance of some foodborne pathogens has declined.

In 2013, FDA released guidance for animal drug companies to voluntarily phase out the use of antibiotics revise as growth promoting agents in production. The plan also brought appropriate therapeutic uses under veterinary oversight and requires a prescription for use.

Other findings in the report include:

• Tetracycline sales represent the largest volume of these domestic sales (6,600,849 kg in 2014), increasing by 25 percent from 2009 through 2014, and increasing 1 percent from 2013 through 2014.

• Lincosamide sales volume showed the greatest percentage increase in domestic sales (150 percent) from 2009 through 2014, while sulfas sales volume showed the greatest percentage increase in domestic sales (18 percent) from 2013 through 2014.

The foodservice industry has been moving away from sourcing proteins from animals treated with antibiotics. For example, Subway Restaurants announced plans to use meat and poultry proteins sourced from animals that have never been treated with antibiotics. McDonald’s US said it will buy chicken raised without antibiotics that are medically important to human health. Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms also announced plans to move away from the use of antibiotics in poultry production.
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