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 Warren (Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (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 Hagel, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell. 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.
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