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FDA urges limited use of antibiotics in meat

By Associated Press
June 29, 2010

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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration, responding to public health concerns, is urging meat producers to limit the amount of antibiotics they give animals.

The FDA said antibiotics in meat pose a “serious public health threat’’ because the drugs create antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can infect humans who eat it. The agency is recommending that producers limit their use unless they are medically necessary and use them only with the oversight of a veterinarian.

“Developing strategies for reducing [antibiotic] resistance is critically important for protecting both public and animal health,’’ the agency said in draft guidelines printed in the Federal Register yesterday.

The agency said misuse and overuse of the drugs has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics have been given to animals to kill pathogens for more than 50 years, and the FDA acknowledged that the practice has had “tremendous benefits’’ to animal and human health.

Of greater concern, the agency said, is when producers use antibiotics on healthy animals to speed growth and reduce feed costs. The agency is also concerned about antibiotics that are given continuously through feed or water to entire herds or flocks of animals.

Joshua Sharfstein, FDA principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, would not say whether the agency plans to issue stricter regulations.