Lawmakers question FDA ability to combat overuse of antibiotics in food animals

Democratic lawmakers want to know what’s being done to stop the overuse of antibiotics in food animals.  

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser Senate Dems rip Trump after Putin news conference Sanders: Trump should confront Putin over Mueller probe indictments MORE (Mass.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump, Putin meet under cloud of Mueller’s Russia indictments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families California Dems endorse progressive challenger over Feinstein MORE (D-Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth Gillibrand2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser Midterms will show voters are tired of taking back seat to Wall Street McConnell: I won't be intimidated by protesters MORE (N.Y.) sent a letter this week to the co-chairs of the newly formed interagency Task Force for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria — outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelGOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Overnight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal Should Mike Pompeo be confirmed? MORE, Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia BurwellSylvia Mary Mathews BurwellPrice was a disaster for HHS — Time for an administrator, not an ideologue Overnight Healthcare: GOP chairman to introduce pre-existing condition bill ObamaCare enrollment hits 11.5M for 2017 MORE. In the letter, they question how the group plans to address what they called “critical gaps” in current Food and Drug Administration policies. 

With nearly 75 percent of all antibiotics sold used in food production and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in contaminated food accounting for 400,000 infections in the U.S. annually, the senators questioned whether the FDA can effectively enforce and measure its own guidelines. 

“While the FDA’s policies are a step in the right direction, we are concerned that the FDA may lack the authority to ensure veterinarians adhere to the criteria laid out in its guidance documents for determining an appropriate preventive use, that the FDA may not have the authority to collect the data necessary to evaluate whether its policies effectively reduce the public health threat, and that the administration has no clear metrics or benchmarks that will be used to determine success or a need for future action,” the letter said. 

They questioned whether the administration's plans to request additional funds in 2016 to study on-farm antibiotic use, whether voluntary surveys are the best way to collect data and if additional authority is needed to ensure compliance. 

Earlier this year, President Obama issued an executive order to address this public health threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is caused by misuse and overuse of antibiotics in the healthcare industry as well as agriculture and results in 23,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.