The U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to publish its final Guidance 209 and a draft proposal rule on veterinary feed directives. And livestock groups are reacting.
The National Pork Producers Council observes the loss of and restricted access to products expected with implementation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's guidance on the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry production likely will disproportionately affect small producers, have a negative effect on animal health and increase the cost of producing food while not improving public health.
Meanwhile, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association responded with comments from Tom Talbot, a California beef producer, large animal veterinarian and current Chairman of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's Cattle Health and Well-Being Committee. He comments: "Raising healthy cattle is the top priority for cattle farmers and ranchers. They work with veterinarians and animal health experts to implement comprehensive herd-health plans, which include the judicious use of antibiotics to prevent, control and treat any cattle health issues," he says. "
NCBA is pleased that FDA has resisted what it terms unscientific calls to completely ban the use of antibiotics and antimicrobials in cattle and other livestock species. However, the group remains concerned with regulatory actions that are not based on peer-reviewed science or that set the precedent to take animal care and health decisions out of the hands of veterinarians.
First proposed in June 2010, the FDA guidance issued Wednesday calls for antibiotics that are "medically important" to humans to be used in animals only when necessary to assure their health. FDA will work with animal health companies to help them voluntarily discontinue the sale to livestock and poultry producers of antibiotics that are labeled only for nutritional efficiency. Additionally, all antibiotics that are in classes used in human medicine will need to be used under a veterinary feed directive.
R.C. Hunt, a Wilson, N.C. pork producer and this year's NPPC president says the guidance could eliminate antibiotics uses that are extremely important to livestock producers and the health of their animals. "And the requirement for VFDs could be problematic, particularly for smaller producers or producers in remote areas who may not have regular access to veterinary services," Hunt observes.
"FDA did not provide compelling evidence nor did it state that antibiotics use in livestock production is unsafe," said Hunt, who pointed out that the agency already has authority to withdraw unsafe products. "Pork producers work with veterinarians to carefully consider if antibiotics are necessary and which ones to use, and we use them to keep animals healthy and to produce safe food."
NCBA's Talbot adds: "NCBA raised concern with FDA’s Guidance 209 in 2010 because the agency lacked the necessary science in its recommendations. Antimicrobial resistance is multifaceted, extremely complex issue that cannot be adequately addressed solely by focusing on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Prudent and responsible evaluation of this issue must consider animal, human and industrial use of antibiotics. While we appreciate the agency working with industry on the implementation of Guidance 209, we remain committed that a strong science foundation is critical before moving forward with this guidance."