The Food and Drug Administration released a new rule Tuesday to reduce the use of antibiotics on animals people eat in hopes of stemming the development of drug-resistant bacteria.
The Veterinary Feed Directive will require farmers to administer antibiotics under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to ensure the drugs are only being used when necessary to treat an infection in an animal. The rule will apply to drugs intended for use in animals or on animal feed.
It is intended to stem the larger problem of drugs being used to make animals grow bigger. Critics say the overuse of antibiotic drugs in food animals is creating more deadly bacteria.
Under the final rule, veterinarians must issue feed directives in the context of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) under the guidelines of a state where the veterinarian practices.
In states that lack appropriate VCPR requirements, directives must follow the federally defined VCPR standard, under which vets are required to engage with the client to assume responsibility for making clinical judgments about an animal’s health, have sufficient knowledge of the animal by conducting examinations and/or visits to the facility where the animal is managed, and provide any necessary follow-up evaluation or care.
“The actions the FDA has taken to date represent important steps toward a fundamental change in how antimicrobials can be legally used in food-producing animals,” Michael Taylor, the agency's deputy commissioner for foods, said in a news release.
“The Veterinary Feed Directive final rule takes another important step by facilitating veterinary oversight in a way that allows for the flexibility needed to accommodate the diversity of circumstances that veterinarians encounter, while ensuring such oversight is conducted in accordance with nationally consistent principles.”
The rule is part of the Obama administration’s push to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, known as super bugs.
President Obama signed an executive order Tuesday calling on the government’s cafeterias to prioritize meat that has been raised with responsible antibiotic practices. The Department of Health and Human Services is also moving forward with new regulations for hospitals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug-resistant bacteria cause 2 million illnesses and about 23,000 deaths in the United States each year.
The FDA’s rule, which will take effect in 120 days, is expected to cost industry $1.41 million in a one-time compliance cost. The FDA expects the annual benefits of a more efficient veterinarian feed directive to be $13,000 over 10 years. Additionally, the agency said the reduction in veterinarian labor costs due to this rule is expected to result in a cost savings of about $7.87 million annually.