Earlier this week, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report titled “Playing Chicken with Antibiotics,” claiming the FDA has allowed continued use of numerous antibiotics in animal agriculture in spite of high risk for emergence of resistant pathogens.

The group used a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to obtain internal FDA documents to prepare their report.

NRDC claims the FDA “quietly allowed 30 potentially harmful antibiotics, including 18 rated as ‘high risk,’ to remain on the market as additives in farm animal feed and water – despite an internal review that raised significant red flags.” They also say the “data show the use of these drugs in livestock likely exposes humans to antibiotic resistant bacteria through the food supply,” and that the drugs remain approved and in use in animal agriculture.

The group also is critical of its Guidance for Industry 213, which calls on drug companies to voluntarily phase out the labeling of antibiotics for performance uses, calling it “loophole-laden recommendations that offer no meaningful improvement over its (FDA’s) lack of action over the last 36 years. Drug manufacturers generally have indicated they will comply with Guidance 213.

The group calls on the FDA to:

  1. Complete the decades-delayed process for withdrawing approval of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed, strictly limiting their use to treating sick animals and, in rare circumstances, to controlling disease outbreaks.
  2. Initiate the process for withdrawing approval for all other classes of medically important antibiotics approved for nontherapeutic livestock use that are not shown to be safe.

Read more from NRDC.