April 16 2012

FDA Issues Guidance on Antibiotic Use in Farm Animals

Julie Gunlock

Last week, the FDA announced a set of new regulations on the farm industry.

  • A final guidance for industry, The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals, that recommends phasing out the agricultural production use of medically important drugs and phasing in veterinary oversight of therapeutic uses of these drugs.
  • A draft guidance, open for public comment, which will assist drug companies in voluntarily removing production uses of antibiotics from their FDA-approved product labels; adding, where appropriate, scientifically-supported disease prevention, control, and treatment uses; and changing the marketing status to include veterinary oversight.
  • A draft proposed Veterinary Feed Directive regulation, open for public comment, that outlines ways that veterinarians can authorize the use of certain animal drugs in feed, which is important to make the needed veterinary oversight feasible and efficient.

So basically, with these FDA "voluntary" guidelines, farmers won't be able to provide their animals with "medically important drugs" without a veterinarian's sign off and drug companies will be "asked" to remove certain antibiotics from the market.  Naturally, the food nannies are applauding these efforts, although some complain that the FDA isn't going far enough because, since these guidlines are voluntary, farmers can just ignore them.  But we all know there's no truth to that.  No one simply ignores guidlines issues by a powerful federal agency.  As I wrote about another set of so-called government issued voluntary guidelines: "It's a regulation, stupid!"

So, how will these new regulations impact the agriculture industry?  I'm not an expert on animal husbandry but when I first read about these new proposed guidelines, I thought about where I grew up in Illinois and where my dad grew up on a ranch in Idaho.  These areas of the country can be extremely rural and veterinarians can be few and far between.  More importantly, farmers don't always rely on a veterinarian's assistance to care for their animals; they simply do it themselves.  How will this new regulation impact these rural farmers who may not have access to veterinarians?  And how will this new deputation of veterinarians into federal service impact the veterinary industry.  After all, these doctors will now be far more in demand given their new oversight authority over farmers' use of medicines on animals.  More importantly, how will these impact small farmers who might not be able to afford the constant services of veterinarians?

A lot of the food nanny types like to say they are on the side of the small farmer and want our nation's agriculture system to move to a more sustainable system.  Hampering small farmers with regulations like these won't help grow small farms; it will only bog them down in government regulations.

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