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FDA asked to restrict antibiotics on livestock

Advocacy groups fear this could lead to antibiotic-resistant bugs that hurt humans

Cows

Advocacy groups have petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration to restrict the use of certain antibiotics given to livestock. They claim that using these antibiotics contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bugs that are dangerous to humans, and that the FDA’s efforts to encourage farmers to stop haven’t been effective.

Three years ago, the FDA created a voluntary program that "disapproved" of the use of antibiotics to promote weight gain in livestock. But the problem is that many of these same antibiotics are FDA-approved for treating disease and so farmers can still use them. Farmers who overuse antibiotics, or give them to animals before they’re visibly sick, risk the development of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The advocacy groups — including the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Natural Resources Defense Council — claim that the voluntary program isn’t enough, given that antibiotic use in food-producing livestock has actually grown by 5 percent since the program began.

Antibiotic resistance is a major problem. It is to blame for 2 million illnesses and nearly 25,000 deaths in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.