Earlier this week, there was a lot of excitement (nay, elation) expressed over the new guidelines from the FDA on antibiotic use in production livestock situations (i.e., factory farms). It sounded like a huge thing. It sounded as if finally, the FDA was going to do something which would end up cleaning up the dynamic on large-scale factory farms so that regular usage of low dose antibiotics would be eliminated (and frankly, this is way after the horse, ahem, has long left the barn in terms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being out in the population, but hey, what the heck).
As usual, it’s the details. It’s the ‘I did not have sex with that woman’ thing.
It’s all about antibiotic usage in feeds … to promote growth.
Know what portion of the antibiotics in animal feeds (and a huge proportion of antibiotics in this country are used in animal feeds, by the way)?
“… the amount of antibiotics used for growth promotion is minimal, explains Ron Phillips of the industry group Animal Health Institute. “Many people believe that all or most antibiotic use is for growth promotion,” says Phillips. “That is not the case. We estimate only 10-15 percent at best.” FDA Rules Won’t Reduce Antibiotic Use On Farms
The other thing is this: These are just ‘guidelines’ and are ‘voluntary’. Hello? So, the concept of public health benefit coming out of this — as in countries such as Denmark, where the general use of antibiotics in livestock feed and water is forbidden, though if an animal has a raging infection, a vet is allowed to Rx a specific dose of a specific antibiotic for a specific animal (and, Denmark has a far smaller rate of antibiotic-resistant infections than we do) — is basically nil. More issues on the new FDA antibiotic rules
But … it sounds good. This situation is not going to get any better until ALL antibiotics are taken out of livestock feeds and water, period, AND the general availability of antibiotics in farm supply stores like Tractor Supply (which has a refrigerator in every store with no lock on it, which is filled with large bottles of injectable antibiotics) is eliminated. Is that going to happen? I doubt it.
Photo by Kurt and Sybilla, used under Creative Commons license