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 WarrenPoll: Majority thinks Trump won't be reelected in 2020 Consumer bureau morale plummeted under Mulvaney: report Julián Castro launches exploratory committee for possible 2020 White House bid MORE (Mass.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation Dems demand Pompeo brief Congress on whether he discussed Assange with Ecuadorian official Cohen saga reaches dramatic climax in federal court MORE (D-Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandPavlich: The media gets woke on the Women’s March Warren has contacted 100 people in early 2020 primary states: report O’Rourke is fireball, but not all Dems are sold 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 HagelJuan Williams: Trump is AWOL on our troops Former Pentagon chief: Trump 'let down our country' by skipping WWI cemetery visit due to rain Trump’s bogus use of cyber threats to prop up coal 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.