RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—A coalition of environmental and public-health organizations filed suit Wednesday against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), claiming the agency's lax stance on antibiotic use in farming is leading to costly and potentially fatal infections in humans. "Accumulating evidence shows that antibiotics are becoming less effective, while our grocery store meat is increasingly laden with drug-resistant bacteria," Peter Lehner, executive director of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in a statement. "The FDA needs to put the American people first by ensuring that antibiotics continue to serve their primary purpose—saving human lives by combating disease."
While we rely on antibiotics to save human lives, it's important to note that the majority of these drugs—about 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the country—are administered at low doses to healthy farm animals to speed growth and compensate for unsanitary living conditions. A 2010 FDA report found farm animals ingested nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics a year! According to the NRDC, a co-plaintiff in the suit, the routine feeding of antibiotics to farm animals has increased over the past 60 years despite evidence that it breeds antibiotic-resistant bacteria dangerous to humans. Although FDA recognized the link between antibiotic abuse in farming and the increase in antibiotic-resistant germs in the late 1970s, it still hasn't done anything to curb the problem, which now costs the U.S. health care system more than $20 billion a year, according to the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics.
Learn more about how antibiotic overuse affects your family:
Bacteria-Infused Meat Found in Grocery Stores
U.S. Gov't: We Failed to Protect Your Beef
Supermarket Chicken Tainted with Bacteria
Factory Farms Use 30 Million Pounds of Antibiotics a Year (and You're Eating Some of It)
The Superbug in Your Supermarket
THE DETAILS: NRDC, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), Public Citizen, and Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) are co-plaintiffs in the suit against FDA. The organizations aim to force the agency to respond to petitions filed in 1999 and 2005 that requested FDA take action to limit the use of antibiotics important to human medicine, ones used routinely in factory-farming yet vital to battling infections in humans. The suit would not affect a farmer's ability to use antibiotics to treat a legitimately sick animal.