The suit says the FDA acknowledged as far back in 1977 that feeding animals low doses of penicillin and tetracyclines could promote antibiotic-resistant bacteria capable of infecting people. The agency hasn't banned the practice, but it did put out non-binding draft guidance last year that suggested limiting the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals only when needed to assure the animals' health.
The lawsuit demands the agency withdraw approval for most non-therapeutic uses of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed and respond to citizen petitions dating back to 1999 and 2005. The other plaintiffs are the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Food Animal Concerns Trust, Public Citizen and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Separately, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) has introduced legislation to phase out the non-therapeutic use of specific classes of antibiotics in food-producing animals, while permitting their continued therapeutic use in sick animals.