News / USA

Lawsuit Filed to Stop Antibiotic Use in Healthy Livestock

Health experts argue constant exposure to drug undermines effectiveness in treating human disease

Animals in many large livestock-raising operations around the world get a small but steady dose of certain antibiotics in their feed.
Animals in many large livestock-raising operations around the world get a small but steady dose of certain antibiotics in their feed.

Multimedia

Audio

American health advocates have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. food regulatory agency to stop a practice they believe is contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections worldwide.  

Many large-scale livestock producers around the world feed small amounts of antibiotics to healthy animals to help them grow better. But public health experts say constant exposure is encouraging bacteria to develop resistance to the drugs, undermining their effectiveness in treating human disease.

The new lawsuit is the latest round in the long-running battle over antibiotic use in livestock.

Routine practice

Farmers started adding small doses of antibiotics to their livestock feed around 50 years ago, after scientists discovered the drugs improved the animals' growth. The practice became routine, and it is now commonplace in large livestock operations in many countries. Controversy over the practice arose soon after it began as public health experts observed antibiotic-resistant bacteria growing in these animals.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first proposed a ban on this use of antibiotics in 1977, but Congress ordered more research.

Steve Roach, with the advocacy group Food Animal Concerns Trust, says evidence has been mounting since then, but the FDA still has not acted. "After 30 years, I think it's time for someone to put a little more pressure on them. And that's what the aim of the lawsuit is."

Roach's group and four other major environmental and consumer groups are suing the FDA to ban the use of two common antibiotics at levels below what is used to treat a sick animal.  FDA officials declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Last June, the agency did recommend that livestock producers phase out the use of antibiotics to promote growth. But Roach notes it was just that: a recommendation. "As far as we can tell, all they were trying to do was kindly ask the industry to make changes. And we just don't believe that's adequate response."

Inconclusive evidence?

The livestock industry says the evidence linking resistant human infections to the farm is not conclusive. And proponents of low-level antibiotic use note that besides promoting growth, the drugs have a therapeutic effect that helps suppress diseases once common in large, confined populations of food animals.

Ron Phillips with the Animal Health Institute, an animal-drug trade association, says that means a safer food supply. "Sicker animals result in greater contamination on the meat. So, the way to control pathogens on the farm so that they don't transfer through the food chain is to make sure we have healthy farm animals."

Antibiotic use in healthy farm animals is not the only source of resistant bacteria. Experts say the largest contributor is antibiotic misuse among people.

But consumers are growing concerned about the effects these drugs might be having on the food they eat. The European Union has banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters. New Zealand and South Korea have restricted the use of antibiotics in livestock as well, and other countries are considering similar moves.

Some analysts believe that regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, livestock producers who want to sell meat to these lucrative markets will need to change how they use antibiotics.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid