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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid