The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced new rules that would limit the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, giving in to increasing pressure from green business and public health advocates who are alarmed by the agriculture industry's reliance on these chemicals. HealthDay.com reports that the new rules will encourage farmers and their veterinarians to use the antibiotics only when animals are actually sick, rather than simply adding them to the feed of all livestock.
However, it's debatable whether the specific changes that are being implemented will do enough to curb use of antibiotics. The FDA is essentially asking drug companies – particularly Zoetis and Elanco, the biggest suppliers of these medicines to farmers – to voluntary change the labeling on the drugs so that there are more visible warnings about the effects of overuse. In addition, veterinarians are being asked to exercise greater oversight of the application of antibiotics.
Those in favor of stricter enforcement are so far unimpressed by the FDA's new rules.
"There's no reason why voluntary recommendations will make a difference now, especially when FDA's policy covers only some of the many uses of antibiotics on animals that are not sick," Avinash Kar, the health attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. " FDA is failing the American people."
Environmental activists are concerned about the use of antibiotics because over reliance on them can allow certain strains of bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotic remedies used for humans. This could lead to the creation of a "super germ" that doesn't respond to treatment, resulting in an epidemic. If you're concerned about the use of these chemicals in raising food, the best thing you can do to put a stop to it is to purchase only organic food items that specifically state on the packaging that antibiotics were not used. These are now widely available at most supermarkets.