WASHINGTON Oct 22 U.S. regulators and livestock
producers have failed to curb the use of antibiotics in
livestock despite concerns that excessive use in meat production
will reduce the drugs' effectiveness in humans, said a panel of
"Meaningful change is unlikely in the future," concluded the
14-member panel, assembled by Johns Hopkins University, in a
report released on Tuesday.
The release marked the fifth anniversary of a landmark 2008
Pew Charitable Trust report that called for an end to the sub
therapeutic use of antibiotics by livestock producers, as well
as an end to practices such as tiny cages for laying hens.
Congressional hearings followed the release of that report,
and the livestock industry went into damage control mode.
Antibiotics are routinely sprinkled into U.S. cattle, hog
and poultry feed, not only to prevent and treat illness but to
promote growth. Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of
antibiotic sales, according to the limited records available.
The Johns Hopkins' report said "additional scientific
evidence has strengthened the case that these (non therapeutic)
uses pose unnecessary and unreasonable public health risks" of
allowing bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics.
"There has been an appalling lack of progress," said
director Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins Center for a
Livable Future, which produced the report. He said lack of
action by Congress and federal regulators and the "intransigence
of animal agriculture industry" had made the problems worse.
The panel that wrote the Johns Hopkins report included
ranchers, public health experts, the former dean of a veterinary
school and former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. Its
chairman was former Kansas Governor John Carlin.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has altered its
guidelines to say antibiotics should be used only under the
guidance of a veterinarian for prevention, control or treatment
of disease, the Johns Hopkins report said there was a loophole.
Drugs can be approved for disease prevention on the proviso that
they are not being used as part of livestock production.
"This means that while antimicrobial approvals may change
... antimicrobial use may not," said the report.
An FDA spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
A livestock group, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, said in
its own report - released to coincide with the Johns Hopkins
study - that the FDA guidelines will assure medically important
antibiotics are used by farmers and ranchers only to combat
Richard Raymond, a former agriculture undersecretary for
food safety, said in the alliance report that antibiotics are
part of an array of biological tools for livestock producers.
Raymond listed them along with beta-agonists, a type of feed
additive that helps animals gain weight faster, and man-made
bovine hormones which are used to boost dairy production.
U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co. suspended U.S. and
Canadian sales of Zilmax, the leading beta-agonist, on Aug. 16
following concerns about cattle who appeared to be sore-footed
or were having difficulty walking after being fed the additive.